Five Nigerians arriving for a flight from Abuja have been detained and the flight has been shut down following intelligence warnings about the presence of men in green military uniforms who may be preparing to launch an attack in a naira currency market in the capital.
It is the latest in a series of counterterrorism alerts in Nigeria on Islamic State West Africa Province and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb members.
The military says it is tightening security in the city after three people were detained on Monday. They were also suspected of being British spies.
“Details received by the Nigerian security agencies on Monday evening revealed that the three suspects were at work in preparation for the attack in the naira currency market,” Maj. Olukayode Thomas, a defense spokesman, told CNN.
“It was also gathered that the suspects are nationalities of Sierra Leone, Nigeria and other black African countries,” he said.
The pair of Britons arrested were later released, but several Nigerians who arrived for a connecting flight remain in detention, including five men in green military camouflage, according to the Daily Times.
Britain’s West Africa Command directed all armed forces to be on high alert and conduct “Operation Whirlwind” in Lagos. “Troops and aircraft have been deployed to prevent and disrupt attacks,” a spokeswoman said.
The authorities in Lagos on Monday denied rumors that dozens of militants are on the loose, who are planning an attack in the city.
However, investigations in the past have concluded that since 2017, IS West Africa Provincial has been sending fighters trained by Al Qaeda to northern Cameroon to attack targets there as well as Ivory Coast and the Central African Republic, where they have established hideouts.
Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari imposed a state of emergency in the northeast and redeployed military commanders to tackle resurgent Boko Haram rebels.
Boko Haram is seeking to establish an Islamic state in the northeast, which it controls under a nickname based on the region’s religious and cultural structures.
Such uprisings have increased in recent months with the proliferation of deadly car bombs.