Nigerian security forces say they have arrested four suspects in the attack on a Catholic church in June that killed 40 people. Authorities blamed the massacre on the militant group Islamic State West Africa Province, or ISWAP.
Nigeria’s Defense Staff Chief Gen. Lucky Irabor disclosed the arrests August 9 in Abuja during a media briefing.
He said joint security agents on August 1 arrested four terrorists who allegedly took part in the June church shooting in the town of Owo, in southwest Nigeria. The suspects, including the alleged mastermind of the attack, were arrested in Kogi State, which is close to Nigeria’s capital.
Men heavily armed with guns and explosives invaded the St. Francis Catholic Church on June 5, killing 40 worshippers and wounding 80.
Irabor also said officials have arrested a high-profile militant who escaped from an Abuja prison last month during a jail break, for which ISWAP claimed responsibility.
Irabor said the suspects could not be brought in front of reporters because of ongoing investigations.
“We’ve done quite a lot, and it’s my pleasure to let you know that starting with the Owo church attack, we have arrested those behind that dastardly act,” Irabor said.
The local governor in Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, said authorities are continuing to search for the remaining perpetrators.
He responded to the announcement and said, “We have known for a while, but we needed not to come out with it because more work is still ongoing.”
Abuja resident Jethro Titus hailed police for catching the suspects.
“Kudos to our security agency for being able to capture those people who killed innocent souls,” Titus said. “I think what should be done to them is … they should face the law.”
But Anthony Olajide, whose 74-year-old mother was killed in the church shooting, remained skeptical about the announcement and wants to see the suspects first.
“I’m not going to follow what Irabor said. I know the country we’re in,” Olajide said. “Why were they not paraded? The fact that he’s chief of defense doesn’t mean whatever he says is the gospel truth.”
Nigeria is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and a wave of criminal activity, especially kidnappings for ransom, mostly in the northwest.
The church attack was the first large-scale killing blamed on a terror group in southwest Nigeria.