KANO, Nigeria (AFP) – Muslims in Nigeria’s northeast marked a fearful, low key Eid-El-Kabir festival Saturday, as the military detained alleged Boko Haram militants and the authorities ordered roads closed.
The embattled Yobe and Borno states declared a travel ban for the duration of the Muslim holiday weekend to guard against Boko Haram attacks.
That meant residents in both states – ground zero for Boko Haram attacks that have killed thousands in the last five years – had to trek long distances to visit mosques and to reach friends and relatives for traditional feasts.
The military in Yobe arrested dozens of suspected Boko Haram militants who had allegedly sneaked into the state capital Potiskum to prepare attacks during Eid, a senior security source told AFP Saturday.
“We have in the last three days made 57 arrests of suspected Boko Haram terrorists who infiltrated Potiskum in preparation for planned massive attacks during the Eid celebrations,” said the source who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
“They were arrested in different parts of the town and they were sent in advance, while weapons they were to use in the planned attacks were to be smuggled in later,” he said.
The traditional chief of Potiskum had to make a last-minute change in the venue of the Eid prayers because of security concerns, residents said.
The travel lockdown has prevented many residents from buying lambs or other livestock used in traditional sacrifices during the festivities.
“Rams are cheaper in the countryside and my plan was to go to a rural market to buy one for the sacrifice, but the restriction of movement has deprived me of that opportunity,” Potiskum resident Lawanti Musa said.
Potiskum is the commercial hub of the state, with a huge market attracting traders from all over the region.
The town’s main market was also closed on Friday because of security fears and many people were unable to buy condiments for their special meals, due to the market closure, meaning they had to make do with canned tomato puree.
“The Eid celebration is not the same due to the fears of attack and the restriction of movements,” said resident Shuaibu Kabiru.