. How The Operation Was Bungled
Revelations have emerged on how the mission to rescue the two kidnapped Europeans recently killed in Sokoto State by their abductors failed even before it started. Street Journal’s investigations have also revealed that the failed rescue mission has also started a diplomatic row between Italy and Great Britain.
The Italian Government led by President Giorgio Napolitano has demanded detailed explanations from the British on why Italy was not informed before the British Government sent Special Forces to attempt to free the duo of Chris McManus a Briton and Franco Lamolinara, an Italian held by the Boko Haram sect in Northern Nigeria.
The Italian Government’s demands have gone a long way in serving as a confirmation that the British Government acted alone in the operation and that David Cameron did not carry his Italian counterpart along before approving the Rescue Mission.
Sources within the British Government however disclosed that the attempted rescue was justified in the sense that the kidnappers had become aware that the net was fast closing in on them and that were on the verge of either moving the hostages or killing them outright.
Street Journal gathered that by the time the British Prime Minister spoke to Giorgio Napolitano about the operation, the two construction workers had already been killed by their captors. On their part, Italian politicians have accused Britain of being motivated by its nostalgia for imperial glory, hence the decision to act alone in the rescue mission. It is a known fact that Britain takes pride in the ability of its Special Forces to rescue hostages. Italian parliamentarians have agreed that “it needs to be clarified why the British authorities decided to launch a military operation without informing us.” In Italy, the action of the British is being read as an “unacceptable” slap on the face of every Italian. Street Journal’s findings also revealed that Italians are known to believe in negotiating with terrorists especially where the lives of hostages are involved. The Italian Government has therefore asked for clarifications from the British Foreign Ministry.
Street Journal has found out that the operation failed at least 24 hours before it started as security agents had already been spotted in the area where the hostages were being held. It was also found out that the hostage takers were already prepared for the raid which was meant to have been planned in utmost secrecy.
Another flaw in the operation was that quite unlike most other rescue attempts like it, the operatives decided to commence in broad daylight. Street Journal also gathered that people in the neighbourhood where the kidnappers’ compound stood had been warned by Nigerian security operatives to leave their homes ahead of the operation thus throwing away the element of surprise which should have been a key factor in the operation. Investigations revealed that the kidnappers who belonged to the Boko Haram sect, an organisation that has been linked to Al Qaeda were so well prepared that they had opened fire before the combined British and Nigerian Forces fired their first shot thus giving indications that secrecy, surprise and decisive force; the key elements in hostage rescue were obviously lacking in the operation. Investigations later revealed that one of the things that gave the Boko Haram captors inkling that a rescue operation might be on the way was the arrest of their cell leader two days before the operation.
20 members of the British Special Boat Service were in Mabera, a suburb of Sokoto.
Street Journal’s findings also revealed that a firefight went on for about one hour before the building was eventually secured by the rescuers. By that time however, the two hostages had been shot in the head at point blank range.
The operation was devoid of the usual helicopter back-up as the Special Boat Service (SBS) men did not want to use choppers in order not to alert the kidnappers since the operation was being carried out in the daytime. The approach used was therefore to move the operatives who were all dressed in civilian outfits there in five different vehicles. They all carried body armour, respirators and helmets with blue tape strapped around them to serve as a mark of identification for their colleagues.
A “break-in” party of five operatives was formed and they carried MP5 machine pistols and automatic shotguns. A plot of confusing the kidnappers was hatched; the Nigerian operatives were to attack a house about 300 yards away and cause as much commotion as possible. The plan was that the SBS would hit the well fenced bungalow harbouring the kidnappers while there was chaos in the neighbourhood. Surprisingly however, the kidnappers fired the first shot, thus showing that they were not taken by surprise.
Findings showed that it took the Special Forces about 40 minutes before they could fight their way into the compound. The Forces could not gain entrance until an armoured vehicle which had been hidden in an uncompleted compound was called in to break through the metal gates that shielded the kidnappers. It was gathered that the level of resistance put up by the kidnappers, the Nigerians on the team suggested that the kidnappers should be “smoked out” by throwing burning tyres over the fence of the compound which stood at over 12 feet.
Street Journal gathered that at least one of the terrorists was killed in the firefight with the Special Forces while two more were gunned down as they tried to escape through the rear of the compound by Nigerian Forces who had surrounded the building and had the area well covered. By the firing of the last shot, eight terrorists were killed and five others were reportedly taken alive.
Street Journal also gathered that details of the operation were relayed to the operational headquarters in Lagos by a Beechcraft plane that flew over Sokoto while the mission lasted.
The bullet riddled walls of the compound still bear the testimony of the fierce gun battle that took place in that compound on Thursday 8th March.
The two men were captured in May, 2011 and by December; a video of the two men blindfolded and flanked by masked men carrying AK-47 assault rifles was posted on the internet by the Boko Haram sect. In the video, demands were made for the release of the sect’s members being held in various prisons in Nigeria.
Street Journal found out that the arrest of Kabiru Sokoto, the alleged mastermind of the bombing that killed scores of people in Madalla last Christmas proved to be a major breakthrough in the discovery of the kidnappers’ hideout. After his arrest, Sokoto was said to have provided information about the group, its backers as well as its plans. Items recovered from him included two BlackBerry devices, two Nokia and two Samsung mobile phones. A lot of intelligence was gathered from the phones as the call logs revealed those in contact with the terrorist organisation while some text messages also proved useful. The call logs also showed that Sokoto was in constant touch with the kidnappers. About 12 telephone lines were thus pencilled down for monitoring; the GCHQ, Britain’s signals Intelligence service and listening headquarters was called in to help the Nigerian secret service to monitor and track the calls. Before long, they were able to pinpoint where the hostages were being held.
A closer link to the hideout came with the arrest of Boko Haram spokesman, Abul Qaqa. With Qaqa’s arrest, the identity of the kidnap leader was unravelled and he was identified as Abu Mohammed.
Security Operatives disclosed that they were being kept in Sokoto, though they were regularly moved around safe houses in the region.
With that much intelligence gathered, British anti-terror squads were deployed to Nigeria about two weeks before the rescue mission. Street Journal’s investigations revealed that in order not to blow their cover, the British officers travelled in civilian clothes and they all entered the country aboard commercial airlines. It was also found out that weapons, communications equipment and other gear for at least 40 UK Special Forces and Royal Marine Commandos were shipped into Nigeria in British diplomatic bags and their destination was the British High Commission in Lagos where they set up the operational headquarters for the rescue mission.
Typical of British rescue operations, the Special Boat Service had access to photographs of the compound where the hostages were kept as well as a surveillance video of the main house. Both were taken from an aircraft that flew over the city and sent images to the command post and monitor screens in the United Kingdom.
Street Journal gathered that the British Forces and their Nigerian colleagues had to wait for “a window of opportunity”, with the capture of Abu Mohammed, the leader of the kidnappers however, it became necessary to move swiftly as Mohammed had revealed that the two hostages were in “imminent danger” as plans had been made to either move and kill them or hand them over to another Al-Qaeda linked organisation in Niger Republic, across the Nigerian border.
Emergency plans were thus put in place and the Commander of the British Forces in Lagos briefed his superiors in London. After a meeting of the Cobra security committee, the rescue mission was approved at 8 am on Thursday 8th March by Prime Minister, David Cameron. By 9 am, the SBS and Royal Marine Commandos were airlifted by helicopter to Sokoto base after which they were taken to the terrorists’ heavily guarded compound.