Suspects arrested in killing of seminarian in Nigerian parish rectory fire

Nigeria rectory fire A screen grab from a video shared with ACI Africa that shows the parish house at St. Raphael Fadan Kamantan Catholic Church of the Diocese of Kafanchan in flames Sept. 7, 2023. | Credit: ACI Africa

Security officials in Nigeria’s Plateau State have reportedly arrested eight suspects in connection with a fire at a parish rectory in Nigeria’s Kafanchan Diocese that resulted in the death of a seminarian.

Seminarian Na’aman Danlami died after Fulani bandits reportedly attacked St. Raphael Parish Fadan Kamantan on the night of Sept. 7 and set the rectory ablaze in what was confirmed as a kidnapping attempt.

In a Sept. 29 press conference, the leadership of the Special Military Task Force, Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) told journalists that eight suspects linked to the tragic incident had been arrested. Captain James Oya said a suspect in the Sept. 1 murder of a woman from Afana Village in Zango Kataf was arrested along with “the suspects involved in the attack and burning of St. Raphael’s Catholic Church Fadan Kamatan on Sept. 7.”

“The swift response of our troops rescued Fathers Emmanuel Okolo and Noah Monday, the parish priest and his assistant,” Oya added. 

“On the whole, we have eight suspects in our custody who are arrested for committing the above crimes and also running a gun manufacturing factory in the area,” the OPSH official said.

He added that 31 weapons of various categories were recovered during the operation that resulted in the arrest of the eight suspects.

In an interview with the Catholic pontifical charity foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, Bishop Julius Yakubu Kundi of the Diocese of Kafanchan said the “attackers were aiming to kidnap the parish priest.”

“When they failed in their attempt to enter the father’s house, they set it on fire. The two priests were able to escape but, terribly, the seminarian was burned inside,” Kundi told ACN in a report shared with ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, on Sept. 8. 

“The assault lasted more than an hour, but there was no reaction or support from the military forces,” the bishop added. “A kilometer away there is a checkpoint, but there was a total absence of reaction.”

“Nigerian citizens are unprotected. We hardly benefit from the security forces,” Kundi lamented.

He described Danlami’s death as “a terrible loss,” adding that his killing is not the first in his diocese, which serves Kaduna State.

“This seminarian is the second member we have lost in the diocese at the hands of terrorist attacks by Fulani bandits,” Kundi said.

He recalled that last year, Father John Mark Cheitnum, director of communications of the Diocese of Kafanchan, was kidnapped and brutally murdered.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.

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