Nigerian soldiers have arrested this month about 100 suspected kidnappers and armed robbers, including a Roman Catholic priest in the southeastern state of Abia, an army spokesperson said today.
“From October 1, we have arrested about 100 suspected kidnappers and armed robbers in a special operation during which we raided several camps and hideouts in the bush which served as bases for criminals in Abia,” Lieutenant-Colonel Sagir Musa said.
“Investigations have shown that some of the suspects are directly involved in kidnapping, while others aided and abetted the crime,” Musa, spokesperson of the army division in the region, said.
A 41-year-old priest in charge of a Roman Catholic church in Umuezi-Mgboko village, whose residence is located next to one of the deserted kidnappers’ camps, was arrested as a suspect after five used shells were found inside his car, Musa said.
“Empty shells were found inside his car. We are saying that because of the proximity of his residence to the camp, he must have known or seen the kidnappers. Why did he not report them or why was he not kidnapped or molested by them?” he asked.
Musa also alleged that the cleric provided the suspects with water.
During the army raid which lasted two weeks, at least 23 cars as well as arms and ammunition were recovered from the camps in Abia, he said.
A spokesperson of the Catholic Diocese of Aba, Father Kelechi Anyanwu, confirmed the arrest of the priest.
“Yes I am aware of his arrest,” he said, without giving further comments.
All the suspects are being interrogated after which those found to be implicated would be handed over to the police or secret police, the army spokesperson said.
Abia, an oil-producing state in the Niger Delta, is notorious for kidnapping and armed robbery.
Recently, four journalists and 15 schoolchildren were kidnapped in the state and later released after they spent several days with their abductors.