Nigerian bomb 'mastermind' escapes
The suspected mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing in Nigeria that killed dozens of people has escaped from custody during a police-escorted transfer.
Authorities said Kabiru Sokoto planned the bombing that killed 38 people at St Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, just outside Nigeria's capital Abuja.
But his arrest - apparently at the mansion of a state governor in Abuja - and subsequent escape raised more questions about the government's ability to stop a radical sect, known as Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for the church attack.
Police Affairs Minister Caleb Olubolade said Sokoto's escape is under investigation and anyone, including himself, could be fired over the incident.
Police had said in a statement that a local commissioner ordered Sokoto transferred to another police station in Abaji, just outside Abuja, and the policemen escorting him were attacked by suspected sect gang members who freed him.
National police spokesman Olusola Amore said Sokoto was arrested over the weekend at the official compound of the Borno state governor in Abuja. Borno state, in Nigeria's arid and dusty north-east, is Boko Haram's spiritual home.
However, Borno State spokesman Inuwa Bwala denied last night that Sokoto was arrested in the governor's home, and said that Borno State governor Kashim Shettima and his opposition-led government were the victims of political persecution.
"There may be a grand conspiracy intended to either embarrass the governor and government of Borno state, or to eliminate (him)," Bwala said.
Commanders have already suspended the local police commissioner and are investigating his actions, as well as those of the officers guarding Sokoto, said Amore.
The Christmas Day bombing targeted worshippers at a Catholic church as they were leaving Mass, witnesses said. It was one of several attacks that day that killed at least 42 people, drawing worldwide criticism and new attention to Boko Haram.