AFRICA/NIGERIA - Precarious security situation: Another Catholic priest kidnapped in Imo State

Monday, 29 May 2023 kidnappings   priests  

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - A week after the kidnapping of Father Kingsley Maduka and his subsequent release (see Fides, 22/5/2023), the kidnapping of another Catholic priest in Imo State (south-eastern Nigeria) is causing concern in the local community.
The details of the kidnapping also indicate that the kidnappers were specifically targeting the priest. Father R. Mathias Opara was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen on the evening of May 26 on the Ejemekwuru-Ogbaku road, which connects Oguta and Mbaitoli local governorates. The priest was on his way back to Owerri from the funeral of another priest's father in Izombo, Oguta Local Government Area, Imo State.
According to the spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, the attackers came out of the bushes to attack Father Opara and the other passengers traveling with them. But while the other three people were being released, the kidnappers fled into the forest, taking Father Opara with them.
It remains to be clarified whether the kidnappers accidentally came across the car with the priest on board and then decided to kidnap him while releasing the other occupants of the car, or whether it was a deliberate kidnapping of the priest. In the latter case, the kidnappers should have had precise information about Father Opara's whereabouts. The fact that he was just returning from a public ceremony, the funeral of another priest's father, would indicate that the bandits were acting with intent to take the priest himself hostage.
At the end of April, also in Imo state, another Catholic priest, Father Micheal Asomugha, parish priest of St. Paul's Catholic Church in Osu, in the local governorate of Isiala Mbano, was kidnapped, who was released after nine days. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 29/5/2023)