The number of suspects arrested in connection with Thursday night’s gunmen attack on St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church, Malumfashi in Katsina State has risen to four.
The Dean of Malunfashi Deanery, Fr Stephen Ojapah, confirmed that about 15 bandits attacked the parish, abducting two priests, Rev Fr Alphonsus Bello and Rev Fr Joe Keke.
Bello was killed, while Keke, who was abducted during the attack, had yet to be found as of Friday evening.
The spokesman for the Katsina Police Command, SP Gambo Isah, while giving an update on the incident, gave the names of the arrested suspects as Hamisu Muhammed, Abubakar Yusuf, Musa Abdu, and Saidu Hamza, aged between 32 and 45.
The police spokesman said efforts were ongoing to rescue Keke, who is said to be in his 70s.
Bello’s remains were found early Friday morning at a farmland behind the Catechetical Training School, Malunfashi.
The Director of Communication for SokotoMary Diocese, Rev Fr Chris Omotosho, who confirmed the incident, said the attack was carried out around 11.30pm on Thursday.
Omotosho said, “Fr Alphonsus Bello, until his death, was the parish priest of St. Vincent, while Fr Joe Keke, 75, was a priest in residence. The whereabouts of Fr Joe Keke are still unknown at the moment, and no contact has so far been made.”
Announcing Bello’s death, Chancellor, SokotoMary Diocese, Rev Fr Cornelius Tagwai, said, “With a heavy heart, I officially announce the call to eternal rest of Rev Fr Alphonsus Yashim Bello, who until his death was a Fidei Donum Priest from Kaduna Archdiocese and the Parish Priest of St Vincent Ferrer’s Parish, Malumfashi, Katsina State.
“This sad event took place in the early hours of today, Friday, May 21, 2021. The late Fr Bello was kidnapped along with Very Rev Fr Joseph Keke, the most senior priest of Sokoto Diocese, but his lifeless body was later found abandoned behind the CTC, Malumfashi. The whereabouts of Fr Keke are not yet known.
“May the soul of Fr Bello and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Kindly join us in prayer for the immediate and safe return of Fr Keke and for the peaceful repose of Fr Bello.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Archbishop Nelson Onyekachukwu, said the national leadership of CAN had fixed May 28, 29 and 30 as national days of prayer for Christians to intercede over the security and other challenges facing the country.
He expressed sadness over the Malumfashi incident and prayed for the release of Keke, whom he said was seriously ill.
According to reports, a general sense of calm has returned to Malumfashi as policemen and other security operatives were said to still be making efforts to ensure Keke’s release.