ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian Federal court charged two Nigerians with providing support for acts of terrorism by an Iranian militant cell.
Abdullahi Mustapha Berende, Saheed Oluremi Adewumi and a third suspect were arrested in February when Nigeria’s secret police broke up a group backed by “Iranian handlers” who wanted to gather intelligence about locations frequented by Israelis and Americans. The State Security Service at the time said it had arrested the three before they could launch attacks, and identified Berende as the leader of a local Shiite sect in Ilorin. It said another suspect remained at large.
The court on Wednesday charged Berende with traveling to Iran between September 2011 and December 2012 and providing “terrorist training together with others now at large on the use of firearms, explosives and other related weapons,” among the six counts. It said he had agreed to recruit people, including Adewumi, for an Iranian terrorist group. The charge sheet also said Berende knew about terrorist training in Iran and spying in Lagos and “failed to disclose such information to the law enforcement officials.” The court charged that he also received some $30,000 in cash to fund the group’s planned operations.
Adewumi was charged on Wednesday with conspiring to commit terrorist acts and providing technological support, including cameras.
In February, the secret police said that the group also conducted surveillance on USAID, the U.S. Peace Corps and other targets. The details of whom they spied on were not in the court papers.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed adjourned the proceeding to Sept. 17 after the men pleaded not guilty to the six counts.
Nigeria, home to more than 160 million people, is largely divided into a Christian south and a Muslim north. Nigeria’s Muslims are predominantly Sunni, though there is a Shiite community in the country. Iran has backed Shiite groups in Nigeria in the past.