From Molly Kilete, Abuja and Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
The armed forces working alongside the police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security agencies have arrested masterminds of the June 5 massacre in Owo, Ondo State.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu confirmed the arrest of the suspected attackers of St Francis’ Catholic Church, Owo, where 44 people were gruesomely murdered and several others injured during a Sunday Mass shortly after the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor, made the confirmation at a parley with media executives at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, yesterday.
The defence helmsman said the terrorists were nabbed at different locations across the country, especially in various communities in Kogi.
“We had wanted to present the suspects to the public immediately but couldn’t because certain investigations are still being carried out.”
He assured that in due course, the suspects and others who had been involved in some daring attacks in the past few months would be presented to the public.
“Starting with the Owo church attack, it is my pleasure to let you know that we have arrested those behind that dastardly act.
“On August 7, one Idris Ojo, 37, was apprehended at Aiyetorosi in Ondo State. He was one of the high-profile Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) members that escaped from Kuje Prison.
“He was arrested along with one Jimoh Ibrahim, a 39-year-old criminal.
“Ojo was not done with all the criminal activities which he undertook in the past, he was also planning other deadly attacks and he was perfecting those plans along with his cronies before he was captured.
“Again, on August 4, the military in a combined operation with DSS arrested four terrorists at Eika in Okehi Local Government Area of Kogi State.
“Others are Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza, otherwise known as Ibn Malik; Momoh Abubakar, Aliyu Itopa and Auwal Onimisi.
“Now, Omeiza is one of the masterminds of the June 5 Catholic Church attack in Owo as well as the attack on the police station in Adavi also in Kogi State that led to the killing of a policeman as well as weapons being carried away,” he said.
On the Abuja-Kaduna train attack, Irabor stated that although some victims had been released, the military and other security agencies remained committed to ensuring safe rescue of the remaining victims in captivity.
He said the military had intensified both air and ground operations to deal with criminals in all parts of the country, adding that several successes had been recorded in recent times.
Irabor disclosed that based on military air operations, the military on August 6, killed one Alhaji Abdulkareen, bandits’ leader along with his fighters in the North West. By the deeds of the surgical air operations that we have conducted, many of the bandits’ leaders have been killed,” he said.
Governor Akeredolu has said owner of the house where the two church attackers stayed before the attack had also been arrested.
He said government did not spare a moment in trailing the terrorists since the horrendous incident.
“Now that the military has announced it, I can tell you that five of them have been arrested now. They are still on the trail of the rest. The home where they lodged in Owo and the person that accommodated them before the attack has also been arrested. We did not spare a moment. I am happy that the Chief of Defence Staff has announced it. We have known for a while but we needed not to come out with it because more works are still ongoing. I can confirm that this arrest has been made. And they are still on the trail of some of them.”
Governor Akeredolu also called on leaders of Ebira community in the state to warn their people against kidnapping.
He said recent reports from victims of kidnap in the state have established that some Ebira indigenes were involved in the unwholesome act.
He noted that the Ebiras have lived together with the people of the state peacefully for several decades, adding that they have always been supportive and hardworking.
“I want to use this medium to urge our brothers to concentrate on their farming. It will be unfortunate to know that the Ebiras in our midst are now involved in kidnapping.
“We are appealing to them not to copy bad thing. The traders selling by the road side should not become informants. We are not fighting them.
“We have seen their numbers, they supported and voted for us during elections. I will call their leaders and talk to them. Our brothers who were kidnapped on their way to Ikare were taken to Ebira farmsteads,” Governor Akeredolu noted.
The CDS said the essence of the parley with media chiefs was to solicit understanding and support from the media in the fight against the security challenges bedeviling the nation.
He called for greater cooperation between the military and the media with a view to finding solution to the security challenges and disallow enemies from stoking fears in the minds of the public.
The defence chief also urged Nigerians and political leaders to understand the distinction between military operations and politics, adding that the military remained undaunted in ensuring a safe and secured nation. Director, Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Jimmy Akpor, said the essence of the parley was to build a sustainable trust between the media and members of the armed forces.
He said the meeting was in line with the leadership focus of Irabor toward fostering professional armed forces capable of meeting constitutional imperatives.