Three suspected terrorists, who plotted to kill ex military President, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, and the deposed Sultan of Sokoto,Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, have been nabbed by the State Security Services (SSS).
They are allegedly linked to espionage and terrorist activities with the backing of some Iranian fundamentalists.
SSS spokesperson Marilyn Ogar named the main suspect as Abdullahi Mustapha Berende, who trained in modern Shi’a Islamic teaching (Da’ awa) at the Imam Khomeni University, Iran.
Investigation by the SSS revealed that Berende was recruited by some Iranian elements when he returned to Iran for further studies in 2011 and was trained in the use of AK 47 assault riffle, pistols, production and detonation of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDDs).
Berende, who hails from Ilorin, Kwara State, told reporters yesterday that his Iranian sponsors did not disclose their mission to him initially.
According to him, his Iranian sponsors approached him with an offer to assist him set up a business in Lagos, with an outlet in Ilorin. He was invited to Dubai in the United Arab Emirate for a briefing in 2012.
Berende added that it was in Dubai that he as asked to establish a terrorist cell in southwestern Nigeria, with emphasis on Lagos where he was detailed to identify and gather intelligence on specific corporate and individual targets for attack.
Berende listed other targets as United States Aids Agency (USAID), Max, Zim International Shipping Company, A. A. Consulting, Peace Corps and the Jewish Cultural Centre (Chabad), all in Lagos.
He said his Iranian sponsors were particular about Lagos because the Israelis have an intelligence facility there, which they employ in spying on Iran. According to him, codes were invented to secure communication with his sponsors. Israel was coded “Uncle”. The US was coded “Aunt”.
The suspect claimed to have personally taken photographs of the Israeli Cultural Centre in Ikoyi, Lagos which he sent to his sponsors after which he was asked to establish a business in Lagos to serve as cover for his operations.
The SSS disclosed that Berende collected $4,000 upon completion of training, 3, 500 Euros in April, 2012 at a meeting in Dubai; and $20, 000.
Giving a breakdown of how the $20, 000 dollars was to be spent, the suspect said $10, 000 was for his relocation from Ilorin to Lagos, furnishing a house, and renting a shop for his business. He was to spend $5,000 on his visa processing and $5,000 for his upkeep.
In the course of carrying out surveillance, Berende said he engaged the services of three other local accomplices – Sulaiman Olayinka Saka, Saheed Aderemi Adewumi and Bunyamin Yusuf.
The SSS arrested Saka and Adewumi, Yusuf is at large.
Berende, who said he was still writing his Masters Degree thesis at the University of Ilorin, however, denied any link with Al-Qada or Boko Haram.
He described his involvement in the operations as regrettable and embarrassing, saying that he never meant to do anything that could betray his country.
“Everybody must watch it because there are many gullible people out there who get trapped with promises of assistance. I regret my role because it is very embarrassing. I never meant to betray my country.
“I mentioned some names to my Iranian handlers from information given by the guy I put on surveillance. But I later found out that the information could be harmful to my country.
“I plead with the people around me, my family and the entire Nigerian people to forgive me and overlook the incident. If given the chance, I will contribute to the development of this country,” the suspect stated.
Ms Ogar said Berende, 50, was arrested in December 2012, following a painstaking investigation that lasted six months.
“From the foregoing, there is conclusive evidence that Berende, in collaboration with his Iranian handlers, was involved in grievous crimes against the national security of this country. Accordingly, he and his accomplices will be charged to court soon,” she said, adding:
“The safety of Nigeria is our collective responsibility. We, therefore, enjoin fellow Nigerians to collaborate with security agencies as we strive to protect our nation from the antics of terrorists within and outside our shores. Let’s collectively remain vigilant and report suspicious individuals and activities to security agencies.”