The Nigerian State Security Service (SSS) on Wednesday paraded a 50-year-old Iranian-trained Nigerian, Abdullahi Mustapha Berende, for alleged active involvement in espionage and terrorist activities.
Spokesperson of the SSS, Ms Marilyn Ogar, said in Abuja that “there is conclusive evidence that Berende, in collaboration with his Iranian handlers, were involved in grievous crimes against the national security of this country.” Ogar said two of Berende's accomplices, Sulaiman Olayinka Saka and Saheed Aderemi Adewumi, and a third suspect, Bunyamin Yusuf, now at large, will be charged to court. The SSS said that the alleged terrorist, who is an indigene of the North Central town of Ilorin, Kwara state, had received special training in Iran on the use of weapons, including the AK 47 assault rifle, pistols, production and detonation of improvised Explosive Devices [IEDs]. Ogar said that Berende, the local leader of the Shiite Sect in Ilorin, had been on the SSS radar for six months before he was eventually arrested through sustained covert operations by SSS operators on 17 December, 2012. She revealed that following Berende's six months course in Modern Shi’a Islamic Teaching [Da’awa] at the Imam Khomeni University, Iran, in 2006, the suspect returned to Nigeria and was specifically tasked to establish a terrorist cell in the South-Western part of Nigeria with particular emphasis on Lagos. It was in his bid to establish the network that Berende recruited Saka, Adewumi and Yusuf, now on the run. She further disclosed that Berende was also tasked by his Iranian handlers to provide names of prominent Nigerians who if attacked could unsettle the West. Consequently, the SSS spokesperson said the suspect gave the names of former President Ibrahim Babangida and former Sultan of Sokoto, Ibrahim Dasuki respectively as targets of attack. Berende also confessed to have made several suspicious trips to and from Iran where he interacted with some Iranian elements, known to operate a high-profile international terrorist network. Ogar noted that 'on his return to Nigeria, Berende was invited by his handlers to Dubai for further briefing in April, 2012. He confessed that his Iranian sponsors requested that he identifies and gathers intelligence on public places and prominent hotels frequented by Americans and Israelis to facilitate attacks. He was also to provide specific details of targets including organizations like USAID, Max, Zim International Shipping Company, AA Consulting, Peace Corps and the Jewish Cultural centre [Chabad] in Lagos. She also submitted “That his Iranian handlers directed him to secure their communication by using codes to represent the targets e.g Uncle [Israel], Aunt [America] among others; That Lagos was preferred because his handlers believed that the Israelis have an intelligence facility there that is used in spying on Iran; That his lieutenants successfully conducted surveillance and gathered relevant data on the mentioned targets preparatory to possible attacks; That he personally took photographs of the Israeli cultural centre in Ikoyi, Lagos, which he sent to his handlers; That he was asked to establish a small business in Lagos that will serve as a cover for his activities; That he received US$ 4,000 upon completion of his training; 3,500 Euros in April, 2012, at the meeting in Dubai; and US$ 20,000 out of which he was to use US$ 10,000 to relocate to Lagos, furnish his house and rent a shop for his business, US$ 5,000 to cover Visa processing expenses while the remaining US$ 5,000 was for his up-keep.' The SSS Spokesperson disclosed that the arrest was achieved with the combined efforts of the SSS operatives in collaboration with other security agencies, including the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Meanwhile, Berende who said he has completed his Masters programme at the University of Ilorin expressed regrets for his actions. He told journalists that he had planned to set up a mobile telephone as well as cocoa business in Lagos.