KANO : The leader of Nigeria's Ansaru jihadist group, Khalid al-Barnawi, one of three Nigerians listed by Washington in 2012 as "specially designated global terrorists", has been arrested, an army spokesman told AFP on Sunday.

"Security agents made a breakthrough on Friday in the fight against terrorism by arresting Khalid al-Barnawi, the leader of Ansaru terrorist group in Lokoja," military spokesman Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar said. "He is among those on the top of the list of our wanted terrorists," he added. Lokoja is the capital of Nigeria's central Kogi state. The US Department of State in June 2012 named Khalid al-Barnawi alongside Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau and Ansaru founder Abubakar Adam Kambar. "Shekau is the most visible leader of the Nigeria-based militant group Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad, commonly referred to as Boko Haram. Khalid al-Barnawi and Abubakar Adam Kambar have ties to Boko Haram and have close links to al-Qa'ida.

Al-Barnawi assumed the leadership of Ansaru following the death of Kambar in a military raid on his hideout in Kano in March 2012. Ansaru, a splinter group of Boko Haram, specialising in high profile killings and attacks on global interests, is linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Al-Barnawi, 47, whose real name is Usman Umar Abubakar, hailed from Biu town in restive northeast Borno state. He was the alleged mastermind of the March 13, 2011 kidnap of a Briton and an Italian, both construction engineers, in northern Kebbi state.