Police, Immigration Warn of Potential Terrorist Attacks on Viewing Centres

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  • Report explains rising violent extremism in West Africa

As the World Cup enters the group of 16 in Russia, the police and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) have warned of planned attacks on viewing centres across the country by terrorists.

The security services have, therefore, charged its personnel to be vigilant throughout the month-long soccer fiesta.

Separate alerts issued by the Force Headquarters and the NIS, both in Abuja, said terrorists were plotting to attack crowded viewing centres.

The Force Headquarters directed all state police commissioners to ensure “intense patrols” and give frequent updates on security situations in their respective jurisdictions.

The NIS also directed its command heads across the country to ensure that all properties belonging to the agency are protected from security breach.

The alert could jolt millions of Nigerians who depend on viewing centres to keep up with the World Cup, relished as the country’s most-admired football tournament.

It was unclear whether law enforcement agencies like the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Civil Defence put similar warnings in place as at Tuesday night.

The spokesperson for the civil defence did not immediately return requests for comments; while the DSS has no spokesperson.

The precision of the alert may seem difficult to gauge because there were no indications about parts of the country that are mostly at risk, but attacks on football viewing centres had been recorded in the past.

A bomb attack at a viewing centre in Damaturu during the 2014 World Cup left at least 21 people dead.

The viewers had gathered to watch Brazil and Mexico game on June 18, 2014, when a massive explosion ripped through the shed, leaving at least 27 also injured.

In 2012, three people were killed when a bomb went off at a viewing centre in downtown Jos, Plateau State. Other pockets of security breaches have been reported at viewing centres across the country in recent years.

Nigeria has been battling Boko Haram terrorists since 2009, with tens of thousands killed across Northern Nigeria in terror attacks.

Meanwhile, a new report by the peacebuilding charity, International Alert, has revealed that the rise in violent extremism in the central Sahel is mainly a reaction to states’ inability to provide security and services.

It, however, said the rise in violent extremism has little to do with religious ideology.

Drawing on extensive interviews with Fulani communities in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, the report looked at why young people may or may not choose to join an armed group.

It found that state abuse and unchecked corruption are the main factors behind some young people’s decision to join armed groups.

The West Africa Regional Manager at International Alert, Marco Simonetti, said: “Real or perceived abuse by government authorities, often with impunity, has led to frustrations that violent extremists take advantage of. These groups use criticism of state corruption to incite communities to embrace an alternative political and social model, inspired by the Sharia.

“In reality, the appeal of global jihad carries much less weight than the unlawful detention of a loved one, the struggle for access to grazing areas or the desire for recognition within the village.”