Leader of attack on church in Nigeria confesses

Rectory of St. Raphael’s Catholic Church burning in Fadan Kamantan, Nigeria, on Sept. 7, 2023.
Rectory of St. Raphael’s Catholic Church burning in Fadan Kamantan, Nigeria, on Sept. 7, 2023. | (Morning Star News screenshot)

Police in Nigeria on Friday (March 22) arrested the leader of an arson attack on a Catholic Church building in September that left a seminary student dead, sources said.

Police in Kaduna state said Saidu Yakubu confessed to leading the attack on St. Raphael’s Catholic Church in Fadan Kamanta, Kafanchan Diocese, Jema’ah County, on Sept. 7. Seminary student Stephen Na’aman Danladi died when the rectory was burned down.

Mansir Hassan, spokesman for the Kaduna State Police Command, said in a statement on Saturday (March 23) that officers had apprehended Saidu, known as Ismail M, “who was involved in banditry, culpable homicide and mischief by fire.”

“On Sept. 7, at approximately 2030hrs, the Officer in Charge of Fadan Kamanta, Zonkwa, alerted authorities of a distressing situation at St. Raphael Catholic Church, Kamantan, where suspected kidnappers had launched an attack,” Hassan said. “Due to diligence and the tireless pursuit of the issue by the police, on March 22, one Yakubu Saidu, the alleged mastermind and leader of the notorious kidnapping gang, was apprehended, and he confessed to his involvement in the heinous crime.”

An area bishop previously said assailants unable to enter the home of the parish priest they sought to kidnap instead set it on fire. The priest, the Rev. Emmanuel Okolo, and his assistant managed to escape, but the fire killed Danladi, 25.

Nigeria remained the deadliest place in the world to follow Christ, with 4,118 people killed for their faith from Oct. 1, 2022 to Sept. 30, 2023, according to Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List (WWL) report. More kidnappings of Christians than in any other country also took place in Nigeria, with 3,300.

Nigeria was also the third highest country in number of attacks on churches and other Christian buildings such as hospitals, schools, and cemeteries, with 750, according to the report.

In the 2024 WWL of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria was ranked No. 6, as it was in the previous year.