A ruthless criminal gang with over 30,000 members is spreading from Nigeria to Europe – where it is crushing previously entrenched groups such as the Italian Mafia.
The Black Ax is one of many outlaw “cults” based in Nigeria. The gang even has an informal “murder league” with other crime syndicates, keeping track of how many people they have killed.
A TUSEN Africa report cites an online article by the group, which states: “The score is currently 15-2, the war is Benin.” Another grim “score” reads “Hit in Anambra state.” The score is Yes [Black Axe] 4 and Buccaneers 2″.
The “Axemen” regularly post photos of corpses showing clear signs of torture on Nigerian social media as a form of intimidation, as well as to brag about their exploits.
The group recruits its members – most of whom are well-educated young men – through a brutal hazing process known as “bamming”.
A Black Ax member writes how he was taken off his college campus by gang members and taken to a wooded area where he was stripped naked and whipped with bamboo canes until he bled.
As gang members whipped him and threatened to gang-rape his girlfriend, he began to think he might not survive the ordeal.
But the beatings suddenly stopped. The young man was then made to drink some of his own blood and chew a kola nut, the locally grown caffeine-rich seed that is a staple crop in Nigeria, after which he was reborn as a member of Black Axe. or “Axeman”.
Dr. John Stone is a former Black Ax “butcher” who has lost count of the number of people he has killed in service to the cult.
He told the TUSEN he was haunted by the memory of his victims begging for their lives.
“It’s so painful,” he said. “The families of the dead, they will curse you. A curse will be upon your life.”
Leaving the group can be dangerous. A former member recounts how they received a warning that said, “A manhunt is coming your way. The AX will pierce your skull… I will lick your blood and chew your eyes.
But for all its violent ways, the Black Ax gang’s main income comes not from murder or its human trafficking operation, but from spam and internet fraud.
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Black Ax operates a large, sophisticated network of romance scams – where victims on dating sites are tricked into sending money to a stranger – and other forms of deception. One victim said they were defrauded over $3 million.
Scott Augenbaum, a former FBI special agent and cybersecurity expert, says Black Ax scams can be devastating: “I’ve seen lives destroyed, businesses go bankrupt, savings lost,” he said. “It affects everyone.”
The ‘axe men’ often use the words ‘mugu’ or ‘maye’, Nigerian slang terms for ‘idiots’, to refer to their victims.
It’s a huge operation. Hacker ‘Uche Tobias’ told TUSEN Africa that by hacking into secret files he had found evidence the group was operating “all over Europe and America, South America and Asia”.
It’s not a small club,” he added. “It’s an incredibly large criminal organization.”
The group’s tentacles reach deep into Nigeria’s political and law enforcement communities, protecting its members and helping them into positions of power where they can help protect Black Ax and advance its causes.
Tony Kabaka, another former member who survived countless assassination attempts, said: “If you sit me down and say, ‘Can you identify Black Ax in government?’ he says. “Most politicians, almost everyone is involved.”