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Nigeria puts $310,000 bounty on escaped bomb suspect

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 19 Jan 2012 21:18 GMT
Author: Reuters
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ABUJA, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Nigeria's police are offering a 50 million naira ($309,600) reward for information leading to the recapture of the main suspect in a Christmas Day bomb attack, who escaped within 24 hours of his arrest this week.

Police arrested Kabiru Sokoto on Tuesday and while they were taking him from police headquarters to search his house outside Abuja, their vehicle came under fire.

Taking Sokoto with them was risky and unusual, security sources said.

The commissioner of police in charge of the operation has been suspended and the inspector general, Nigeria's most senior police officer, has been told to explain the circumstances that led to Sokoto's escape.

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.

"The Police High Command has declared Kabiru Umar (a.k.a. Kabiru Sokoto) wanted in connection with cases of bombing and terrorism across the northern states of the Federation, especially the Christmas-Day bombing of a Church at Madalla," a police statement said on Thursday.

"He is aged 28 years, fair in complexion and speaks English, Hausa and Arabic languages fluently," the statement said.

Last year was the second in a row that Boko Haram has attacked churches at Christmas. Its strikes are becoming deadlier and more sophisticated, and have raised fears that the militants are trying to ignite sectarian strife between Nigeria's largely Muslim north and Christian south.

Boko Haram, meaning "Western education is sinful" in Hausa, has also been blamed for a campaign of shootings and bombings against security forces and authorities in the north.

Attacks in and around the capital - including one on the U.N. headquarters in August that killed at least 24 people - suggest the group is trying to raise its profile and spread out from its heartland in the northeast. ($1 = 161.4900 Nigerian nairas) (Reporting by Felix Onuah and Camillus Eboh; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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