AFRICA/NIGERIA - Catholic priest kidnapped on Monday released

Wednesday, 12 July 2023 kidnappings   priests  

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - The Catholic priest Joseph Azubuike, kidnapped in Nigeria on July 10, is free again. The priest and three other people were abducted by unidentified gunmen in Isu, in Onicha Local Government Area in Ebonyi State, south-eastern Nigeria. The four people were released around 6 p.m. (local time) yesterday, July 12, according to the Ebonyi Police Department and the Abakaliki Diocese. "Thanks to the joint efforts of the emergency services, Father Joseph Azubuike was freed from the kidnappers unharmed and in good health," said a police spokesman. "Intense efforts are underway to apprehend the perpetrators who escaped during the rescue operation. The Catholic cleric is currently undergoing a medical examination in hospital," added the police spokesman. Father Mathew Opoke, chancellor of the diocese of Abakaliki, confirmed the release of the priest and the other abductees. In his statement, the chancellor of the Abakaliki diocese said the kidnappers released the hostages unconditionally. "We are pleased to announce that Father Joseph Azubuike and the other three people kidnapped with him have regained their freedom. It is a cause for rejoicing that God has answered our prayers and announced the unconditional release of His servant in an extraordinary way. We are grateful to all those who acted immediately upon learning the devastating news of his kidnapping and that of his three companions," the Abakaliki Diocese statement said. Father Azubuike, parish priest of the church of St. Charles in Mgbaleke Isu in Onicha LGA of Ebonyi State and the other three people were kidnapped near the priest's home when they were returning from a pastoral meeting. Kidnapping for ransom has become a common crime in most parts of Nigeria. Everyone, including students and religious, is an easy target. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 12/7/2023)