A federal court in Brooklyn, New York yesterday unsealed an indictment filed on Feb. 21 against Nigerian citizen Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi, who is said to have provided material support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Babafemi has been in Nigerian custody since 2012.
Court documents showed that between January 2010 and August 2011, Babafemi “traveled twice from Nigeria to Yemen to meet and train with leaders of AQAP,” according to an FBI press release. While there, Babafemi allegedly received weapons training and aided AQAP in the production of Inspire magazine.
Additionally, at the “direction” of al Qaeda ideologue Anwar al Awlaki, Babafemi received nearly $9,000 from AQAP’s leadership, the FBI press release stated. The money was allegedly intended to be used “to recruit other English-speakers from Nigeria to join” AQAP.
Earlier this month, the Nigerian government asked a court to approve the US request for Babafemi’s extradition. According to Agence France Presse, a federal high court in Abuja approved the request today. Babafemi “shall be surrendered to the officials of the United States of America not later than 15 days from the order of this court,” the presiding judge said.
According to AFP, “[t]here was no indication in the documents made public that Babafemi was linked to Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.” However, documents seized at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan have shown that top-level Boko Haram leaders have been in touch with al Qaeda, according to the Guardian. Boko Haram is also known to receive support from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and from Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate in East Africa.
And earlier this month, the Daily Beast reported that Boko Haram representatives were part of recently intercepted al Qaeda communications that led to the closure of numerous US embassies.
Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi is not the first Nigerian to have worked with AQAP and al Awlaki, whom the FBI described as a “senior commander” in AQAP. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who failed to detonate a bomb on an airliner over Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009, was praised by al Awlaki and is known to have trained at AQAP camps in Yemen.
According to the Treasury Department, al Awlaki, who has played a role in other terror plots, was responsible for “preparing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.” Abdulmutallab “received instructions from Aulaqi to detonate an explosive device aboard a U.S. airplane over U.S. airspace,” Treasury said in its July 2010 designation of al Awlaki.