CONTROVERSY is trailing the list of terrorists arrested in connection with the attack on St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State.
The Chief of Defence Staff Lucky Irabor on Tuesday revealed that troops of the Nigerian Army had arrested the terrorists behind the attack.
Irabor disclosed this while addressing media executives at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja.
Irabor later released the names of four of the suspects linked to the terrorist attack.
In a statement released by the defence headquarters, Irabor said, “Those arrested included Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza (a.k.a Bin Malik), Momoh Otohu Abubakar, Aliyu Yusuf Itopa and Auwal Ishaq Onimisi.”
The defence chief said preliminary investigation revealed that Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza was the mastermind of the terror attack on the Owo Catholic Church as well as the attack on a Police Station in Adavi Local Government Area (LGA) Kogi State, on June 23, during which a policeman was killed, and weapons carted away.
However, the inclusion of Idris Ojo (32 years), among the those arrested in connection with the Owo attack generated controversy as he was one of the terrorists that escaped from Kuje Prison recently.
The CDS later clarified the situation in a statement.
According to the statement, “Idris Ojo was one of the suspected ISWAP terrorists who escaped from the Kuje Medium Correctional Centre highlighted on 5 July 2022.”
Ondo State governor Rotimi Akeredolu also clarified that Ojo was not one of the suspected masterminds of the Owo church attack.
The governor made the clarification in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary Richard Olatunde on Wednesday, hours after Ojo was named as one of the suspects in the June attack. He, however, blamed the CDS for the mix-up.
“The announcement of the arrest of Idris Ojo as one of the perpetrators of the June 5 attack on St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, was a mix-up from the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor.
“Idris Ojo, who is number 14 on the wanted list of the Kuje Prison Escapees, was arrested in his brother’s house in Akure. His brother, Jimoh Rasheed Ibrahim, received and accommodated him after his escape from Kuje Prison.
“He was thereafter moved and kept in the custody of the security operatives at the same time the attackers of Owo Catholic Church were arrested and brought into custody. Hence, the mix-up,” Akeredolu said in the statement released by his spokesman.
The Defence Headquarters has also announced the arrest of two additional terrorists in connection with the Owo attack.
According to a statement released on Wednesday and signed by Jimmy Akpor, Director of Defence Information, the two arrested terrorists are Al-Qasim Idris and Abdulhaleem Idris.
Abdulhaleem Idris was described as a high profile commander of a jihadist terror group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
The statement read: “Barely few hours after the disclosure by the CDS of the arrest of four of the Owo Catholic Church attackers, two additional ISWAP terrorists, who were also connected to the attack on the church, were apprehended at Omialafara (Omulafa), Ose LGA, Ondo State, yesterday, 9 August, 2022.
“The arrests were made through the collaborative effort by military and DSS personnel. The suspects are Al-Qasim Idris and Abdulhaleem Idris.
“It is instructive to note that Abdulhaleem, alongside other high profile ISWAP commanders, had also previously coordinated attacks on military targets in Okene, Okene LGA, Kogi State, resulting in casualties.”
This brings the total number of terrorists arrested in connection with the Owo church attack to six.