The Federal Government yesterday docked four Lebanese before a Chief Magistrate’s Court sitting in Karu, Abuja, over terrorism-related offences.
The accused persons are Mustapha Reda Darwish Fawaz, Talal Roda, Abdulla Tahini and Hussain Nurudeen Kossdi.
They were arrested in connection with the latest discovery of cache of arms in the home of a Kano-based businessman.
Their pleas, however, could not be taken yesterday.
Chief Magistrate Muyiwa Oyeyipo ordered the suspects remanded in custody till June 19, when they would appear in court to enter their pleas.
The State Security Service (SSS) arrested the suspects between May 16 and May 28, and a military official said all had said they were members of the Lebanon- based Shi’ite Muslim organisation Hezbollah.
The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.
A raid on one of the suspects’ residence in Kano uncovered a stash of anti-tank weapons, landmines, heavy artillery, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, authorities said.
The military said last week that the weapons were to be used in attacks on American and Israeli targets in the country.
But a security source said yesterday that there were no doubts about the Hezbollah link and officials were looking into the possibility that the suspects simply meant to sell the arms for profit.
Authorities have said that they are investigating the case to see if there is a link with the Boko Haram – though it would be unusual for Shi’ite Hezbollah to form an alliance with the Sunni Muslim Nigerian organisation.
As the battle against insurgents rages on in the North-East, the military authorities have described Yobe State as terror-free, saying that terrorists have fled the state to Niger Republic.
Yobe State was the initial headquarters of the Boko Haram sect before its movement to Borno State.
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said about 49 suspected Boko Haram terrorists had been arrested in Yobe State by Special Forces following a tip-off by locals.
It said all the terrorists’ camps in the state had been dislodged, adding that some criminals now resort to brigandage, robbery and attempted assassination of perceived enemies.
DHQ said: “All the camps of the terrorists had been dislodged as some of the insurgents fled towards Niger Republic.
“The trend is that some particular crimes have now taken the place of terrorism as the criminals resort to brigandage, robbery and attempted assassination of rivals.”
The DHQ added that its men in Maiduguri had been patrolling the notorious Sambisa forest and were also searching the Alou forest and Gwoza Hills.
The DHQ said more abandoned vehicles, weapons and other items were recovered in the insurgents’ camps.
It said: “Among the recent finds are rifles, double barrelled guns, various charms and amulets, machine guns as well as pairs of camouflage uniforms, bows and quiver and assorted rifle magazines.
“Others are mobile phones, walkie talkie, car number plates and some food items. Abandoned vehicles recovered include a Golf car, a Honda, Customs Pickup van, Honda (2003 model) and a Volkswagen Monte Carlo.”
The DHQ spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, however, announced the arrest of an unnamed member of the Boko Haram sect, whose responsibility is to recruit young men into the group.
He said the suspect was arrested following a tip off.
According to him, the suspect, who was also the guard in charge of the insurgents’ armoury, was arrested in one of the search operations by the Special Forces.
Olukolade also announced the arrest of another group of five insurgents who are Niger Republic nationals. He said they were apprehended when troops stormed their hideout at Mallam Fatori while attempting to escape in two Toyota Cruiser jeeps.
The DHQ also expressed delight that its men had reopened police stations in some parts of Borno State, adding: “At Kirenowa, detachments of police anti-terrorist unit have been deployed to complement security in the area.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday backed the proscription of Boko Haram and Ansaru by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The House spokesman, Hon. Zakari Mohammed, described the groups’ activities as embarrassing to the government.
Mohammed said: “We have not minced words over condemnation of Boko Haram. If you look at our legislative agenda as the 7th House, you will discover that we promised to make laws for peaceful co-existence of the country.
“As a House, we have to support the President on this because he took the right step in the right direction. We believe it is even coming too late.
“We believe that those who got aggrieved and got themselves into it did not act in interest of the nation. We want to live in a peaceful atmosphere.
“This is an association of people and now a law has come to criminalise such an association, it is indeed a right step in the right direction”