Gunmen abducted four Catholic nuns on a highway in Nigeria’s oil-producing Imo state in the southeast, a local convent said on Monday, in the latest sign of widespread insecurity making road travel unsafe.
The latest abduction comes three months after the head of the country’s Methodist Church was whisked away by gunmen in the region. The cleric was released barely a day after his kidnap after allegedly paying his captors a ransom of 100 million naira (around $235,000).
Armed gangs have been kidnapping people, including priests, for ransom from villages and on highways mainly in the northwest and the practice has spread to other parts of the country, increasing insecurity in Africa’s most populous nation.
Zita Ihedoro, secretary general of Sisters of Jesus, the Saviour Generalate, said the four nuns were abducted while traveling from Rivers state to Imo for a thanksgiving mass on Sunday.
“We implore for intense prayer for their quick and safe release,” Ihedoro said in a statement.
Police spokesperson in Imo, Michael Abattam, said officers were pursuing the kidnappers.
“We are presently on their trail,” Abattam told CNN Tuesday. “We are doing everything to see that they (the nuns) are rescued.”
In the northwest, Nigeria’s military has started an air offensive to eliminate the armed groups responsible for kidnapping citizens from villages and towns in the region.
“In the Northwest specifically, the effect of strikes undertaken by NAF (Nigerian Air Force) aircraft have revealed that several terrorists have been eliminated and their enclaves destroyed,” the Nigerian Air Force said in a recent statement.