(Reuters) – Nigerian security forces recaptured on Friday the main suspect in a deadly Christmas Day bomb attack who escaped from police custody last month, a state security source said.
Kabiru Sokoto’s escape on January 18 was described by security sources as “unusual and suspicious” and it prompted President Goodluck Jonathan to sack the chief of police and his six deputies.
Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja, which killed 37 people and wounded 57, the deadliest of a series of attacks at Christmas.
Police arrested Sokoto on January 17 and while they were taking him from the police headquarters to his house in Abaji, just outside Abuja, to conduct a search there, their vehicle came under fire and Sokoto escaped.
He was recaptured on Friday in the eastern state of Taraba, which borders neighboring West African country Chad.
“Yes, we arrested him this morning in a small hut in Mutum Biu in Taraba State. He’s being flown to Abuja about now,” a State Security Service source told Reuters.
Jonathan, who has been heavily criticized for failing to deal with Boko Haram’s campaign of violence, will be relieved at Sokoto’s recapture. Jonathan has said members of the sect have infiltrated the security services and he has ordered a comprehensive reorganization of the police force.
Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria means “Western education is sinful,” is loosely modeled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.
It killed more than 500 people last year and more than 250 in the first weeks of 2012 in gun and bomb attacks, Human Rights Watch says.