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Nigerian police arrest governor’s aide over church massacre

Nigerian police said Friday they had arrested a governor’s aide over a church massacre and an attack on a military patrol that killed 23 people, but his involvement was not clear.

The attacks this month were similar to scores blamed on Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which has targeted Christians as well as the security forces in a series of gun raids and suicide blasts.

Kogi state police chief Muhammed Katsina said that special adviser to the state governor Yahaya Karaku and four others “are being detained and interrogated over their suspected involvement in the attacks on the Deeper Life Church and military patrol team“.

Gunmen stormed the evangelical church on August 6 in Okene in Kogi state, cut the electricity and opened fire on worshippers, killing 19 people including the pastor.

The following day, assailants shot at troops patrolling outside a government building in the city, sparking an exchange of gunfire that left two soldiers and two of the gunmen dead.

“We want to determine the involvement of these five suspects in these attacks as well as arms and ammunition recovered in Okene and its environs,” Katsina told AFP.

“We want to trace the sources of these arms and those behind the attacks.”

Kogi state government spokesman Jacob Edi confirmed the arrests of Karaku and Abubakar Adagu, a former local government council chairman, vowing that officials would not protect them if they are found culpable.

“The law must take it course,” Edi told AFP.

It was not clear who carried out the church killings or whether the two attacks were linked, although a police spokesman has said there was “suspicion” that the same group was responsible for both assaults.

The police also previously said they had raided a suspected hideout of militants who carried out attacks in the state, arresting a key leader and two other suspects.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, is split between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.

The Islamist sect Boko Haram, which has said it wants to create an Islamic state in the north, is believed to include a number of factions, including those with local political links.

The group has killed more than 1,400 people since 2010 in attacks across northern and central Nigeria, according to Human Rights Watch.

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