Nigeria beefs up security after 'terror' warning by UK and US

Residents in the capital Abuja have been on high alert since last weekend

Counter-terror and regular police provide security in Kano, northern Nigeria. AP
Powered by automated translation

Nigeria on Friday said it had beefed up security and called for the public to be vigilant but calm after the US and Britain warned of a high “terror” threat in the capital Abuja.

Without giving details on any specific threat, the US on Thursday ordered diplomats' families to leave Abuja due to what it called a “heightened risk of terrorist attacks”.

Residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have been on high alert since Sunday, when several western embassies changed their travel advisories, citing an elevated risk of attack in the city.

Nigerian troops are fighting Islamist insurgents mostly in the north-east, though there are small cells in other parts of the country.

Militants linked to ISIS claimed several attacks near the capital in the past six months, including a mass jailbreak in July.

The incident in Kuje, in which more than 400 inmates including dozens of suspected militants escaped, prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to say he was “disappointed” with his intelligence services.

But since then, “security measures have been reinforced in and around the FCT”, a statement from Mr Buhari's office said on Friday, citing “heightened monitoring and interception of terrorist communications”.

“Terror is a reality the world over. However, it does not mean an attack in Abuja is imminent,” it said.

The president gave his “assurances that the government is on top of the security situation”.

“Attacks are being foiled,” he said. “Security agents are proactively rooting out threats to keep citizens safe — much of their work unseen and necessarily confidential.”

While he ordered “additional precautionary measures be put in place”, Mr Buhari said that “the recent changes in travel advice from the US and UK governments should not be a cause for panic”.

On Thursday, Nigerian police instructed “all strategic police managers in charge of commands and tactical formations within the country to beef up security in their respective jurisdictions, especially in the FCT”.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price praised security efforts both in Nigeria and South Africa, where a separate US alert of a potential attack outraged the government, which feared a panic.

“We appreciate the efforts of our Nigerian partners to address security threats in Abuja and across the country,” Mr Price said.

Updated: October 28, 2022, 11:23 PM