By Sodiq Yusuff
Ibrahim Uwais gave his parents and everyone around him the impression that he hates Boko Haram because of the “damage” they are doing to Islam — but he has now gone to Syria apparently to join the Islamic State militants.
His distraught father, Mohammed Uwais (pictured) — who served as the chief justice of Nigeria from 1995 to 2006 — was still trying to come to terms with the news when he suffered a suspected armed robbery attack last weekend, although he was not hurt.
Ibrahim, described as a 41-year-old “reserved and committed Muslim”, has two wives and four children, TheCable learnt.
His elder wife was the head of a private school in Abuja while the younger worked with the Debt Management Office (DMO).
When he took the decision to go to Syria to team up with the “jihadists” of the Islamic State, he reportedly called his wives aside and told them they were free to return to their parents.
“But both of them said they would go with him,” a source in the know of the development told TheCable, adding that they took all their children with them.
When the retired justice was alerted on the disappearance of his son and his family, he became apprehensive and started to make investigations.
He went to report to the security agencies — who told him they would investigate the claim that his son might have gone to Syria.
TheCable could not confirm the airline or route Ibrahim flew out of Nigeria or the date he left, but sources said he travelled through Turkey, which shares border with the war-torn Syria.
Parts of Syria and Iraq are under the control of the Islamic State which carries out summary executions, including beheadings and death by stoning, of those accused of flouting its sharia law.
The Turkish embassy in Abuja was compelled to disclose the details of Ibrahim’s movement through a court injunction, TheCable learnt.
The embassy confirmed that it issued visas to Ibrahim and members of his family.
The details of his arrival in Turkey were made available, while images of CCTV recordings were also said to have been analysed by the Turkish security agencies to establish their movement.
Hated Boko Haram
Ibrahim, who dropped out of the university and went into full-time business in his early 20s, is the unlikeliest man to volunteer for the Islamic State, according to family friends who spoke with TheCable.
“He hated everything Boko Haram stood for, and often queried why they would be killing innocent women and children in the name of Islam,” a source said.
“With the benefit of hindsight, he was probably trying to cover up his plans. There was no way you would have suspected that he was ever going to be a fundamentalist himself.”
He was a student of King’s College, Lagos, and went on to the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, “where he was radicalised”, according to a former student of Queen’s College, Lagos, who told TheCable that Ibrahim “was very popular with QC girls in those days”.
A family source confirmed that Ibrahim left Nigeria with his family early February “without a word”, keeping his extended family in the dark.
“The fact that he didn’t say goodbye to both parents, and the deafening silence from his end since then, seems to lend credence to this storyline (that he has joined ISIS),” he said, adding that “we are just praying for news of them, news of any sorts”.
Memories of AbdulFarouk
Ibrahim’s case has refreshed memories of AbdulFarouk AbdulMutallab, the fresh-faced engineering graduate of the University College, London, who attempted to bomb an American airliner in the US on December 25, 2009 having been radicalised by Al-Qaeda.
AbdulFarouk is the son of a very prominent Nigeria businessman and former minister, Umaru Mutallab. His mother is a Yemeni named Aisha.
He was believed to have been radicalised on a visit to Yemen in 2009, when he was thought to have come in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, a suspected recruiter for the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was later killed in a US drone strike in 2011.
Mutallab reported his son to the US embassy in Nigeria when he refused to return from Yemen after withdrawing from the San’a Institute for the Arabic Language.
Likewise, Uwais reported his son to the Nigerian authorities on discovering the suspected mission of his son.
A growing trend?
Nigerian authorities are beginning to fret over what they now suspect to be a trend of radicalisation of northern youths by their exposure to fundamentalist ideology.
“We now have reasonable ground to suggest we have a big battle in our hands,” an intelligence officer told TheCable.
“One of the toughest nuts for us to crack is how Boko Haram has been able to recruit thousands of fighters. Given the number of Boko Haram fighters that have been killed by the military in north-east operations, the group should have been completely incapacitated by now, but they keep getting fresh recruits.”
While this category of recruits is believed to be ordinary people, the involvement of the children of the northern elite “is definitely new and a source of worry”, the officer said.
According to him, “It is not so much about the recruitment of fighters… but the source of funding for the terrorists. If the elite or children of the elite are sympathetic to them, it will be easy to get funding across to them because it would be very difficult to trace.”
A troubled man
Although there is strong evidence suggesting that Ibrahim is in Syria, the family has not given up hope of getting him to abandon his mission and return home.
“We have no idea how he got himself involved in this,” a friend of the family told TheCable.
Meanwhile, Uwais himself was still battling to make sense of the “sad development” when he had a traumatic experience in the hands of suspected armed robbers at his Abuja home.
“Armed robbers put a gun to the head of this 79-year-old gentleman. Not satisfied with what they could get out of him, they proceeded to lock him up in a dusty, mosquito-ridden room,” a source said.
One of his wives reportedly discovered where he was locked up six hours after the robbers left.
Uwais has refused to comment on his son’s disappearance since the story was first reported by a newsite, TheWill, on Tuesday.
Culled from TheCable