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Terror suspect back in custody

The alleged mastermind of a radical Islamist sect's Christmas Day church bombing fled across Nigeria after escaping police custody and hid for about a month before finally being apprehended, authorities said.

The arrest of Kabiru Sokoto by Nigeria's secret police and military comes after his escape led to national embarrassment amid the increasingly bloody attacks carried out by the sect known as Boko Haram.

Though Nigeria president Goodluck Jonathan fired the nation's top police official, the nation's weak central government still appears unable to stop the sect from attacking at will and disappearing into the shadows.

Officers from the State Security Service and soldiers raided a home in Mutum Biyu in Taraba state where they suspected Sokoto was hiding, said Marilyn Ogar, a spokeswoman for the secret police agency.

They found Sokoto hiding behind a rack of drying laundry, Ms Ogar said.

Authorities did not say how they found Sokoto, though secret police have in the past tracked suspects using the signals from their mobile phones.

Ms Ogar said Kabiru was hiding in a suspected accomplice's home, but it was not clear what his plans where. He initially fled to Nasarawa state, which borders Abuja, then to Taraba state, which borders Cameroon, she said.

Sokoto, wearing a green Puma T-shirt, appeared before journalists at a news conference at the secret police's Abuja headquarters. He only answered "yes" when asked if he was Kabiru Sokoto.

Police named Sokoto, an alleged member of the radical sect known as Boko Haram, as the prime suspect for the December 25 bombing of St Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, a city just outside of Nigeria's capital Abuja.

That attack killed at least 44 people, church officials say, as a car bomb detonated just as worshippers left an early morning Christmas Mass.

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