Anglican Archbishop Kidnapped in Southern Nigeria

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Gunmen are still holding the Anglican archbishop of Benin diocese in
southern Nigeria’s Edo state after abducting him on Sunday.

Peter Imasuen,
who is also the state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN),
was abducted in front of his official residence on his way back from a church
service. The kidnappers are reportedly demanding $750,000 for his release.

The armed kidnappers reportedly
followed the archbishop from the St. Matthew Cathedral to his residence, where
they dragged him out of his car and took him to an unknown

members of CAN led by the Rev. Richard Ofere met with Edo Gov. Adams Oshiomhole
yesterday on the abduction of the bishop; they declined to speak to news media
but are believed to be working with family members and government officials on
the matter.

Gov. Oshiomhole
decried the kidnapping, which he blamed on the federal government’s withdrawal
of soldiers from a state joint security program code-named, “Operation
Thunderstorm” designed to help thwart militant violence and

He promised
to meet officials of the president’s office on the need to increase security in
the state and ensure that the bishop is released soon. Muslim President Umaru Yar’Adua left the country on Nov. 23 to seek treatment
in Saudi Arabia, leading some to speculate on a leadership vacuum in the


“I feel I have
failed as a governor to protect the lives of our people, but whatever we have to
do will be done,” Gov. Oshiomhole said. “I have sent for all those who should
know that everybody must do what needs to be done. We can never surrender to

The identity of
the kidnappers was not clear, but in recent years abducting top public figures
for ransom has become common in the South-South and South- Eastern zones of the
country, where militant groups have been campaigning against the poor level of
development of the area.

Armed groups
seeking a larger share of oil revenues for local residents have attacked oil
installations in southern Nigeria since 2006. One major group, the Movement for
the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), declared an open-ended ceasefire
last October.

The cease-fire
was meant to open the way for talk with authorities, but MEND recently said it
was “reviewing its indefinite ceasefire announced on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2009, and
will announce its position on or before Jan. 30, 2010.”

In the past four
years, hundreds of foreign and local oil workers have been kidnapped in the
region, with many being released unharmed after hefty ransom payments.

The militants
have also blown up pipelines and offshore oil platforms.

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