By BosNewsLife Africa Service with writing by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Nigerian police say two suspects in the kidnapping of four British missionaries have been detained while a third was killed in a shootout.
State police spokesman Andrew Aniamaka told media Thursday, November 9, that the suspects were arrested in Nigeria’s oil hub of Warri the previous day.
The Britons were kidnapped October 13 while working for a Christian medical charity providing free services to residents living near Nigeria’s isolated Niger Delta creeks.
One of them, the 57-year-old optician Ian Squire, was killed after militants seized him and the other Christian missionaries during a raid in the southern Delta state.
The British High Commission and Nigerian authorities negotiated the release of three others – Alanna Carson, David Donovan, and Shirley Donovan. The circumstances surrounding Squire’s death were not immediately apparent.
Friends called him a “lovely, quiet man who only wanted to help the poor.” Squire ran his own opticians in Shepperton, Surrey, and had been founder and chairman of Christian charity Mission for Vision since 2003.
He was credited with the invention of the portable solar powered frame and lens cutting machine to enable people to make prescription glasses in remote regions such as the Niger Delta region.
Kidnappings for ransom are frequent in Nigeria and Christians have often been targeted by Islamic militants or their supporters.
Several high-profile abductions have been carried out by militants in the Niger Delta and by the Islamist group Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria.
Last month, an Italian priest based in Nigeria for the last three years was kidnapped by gunmen near Benin City, the capital of Edo state. Maurizio Pallù, originally from Florence, was released within tree days and is “doing well”, Italy’s Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said.
Christian leaders also confirmed that a previously abducted pastor was freed on August 9, five days after being kidnapped. Jen Tivkaa Moses had been seized August 4 by young Fulani herdsmen while traveling along the highway from Jos to Abuja in Plateau state, Christians said.
It remained unclear whether a full ransom had been granted to the kidnappers, who demanded 1 million nairas (some $2,800) to secure his release. Nigeria also saw the kidnapping of hundreds of predominantly Christian schoolgirls in the town of Chibok in 2014.
News of the aftermath of recent kidnappings came while Christians in Nigeria confirmed they had buried nine evangelical Christians after Muslim Fulani herdsmen ambushed and killed them this week.
The victims, who belonged to the Church of Christ In Nations denomination, were buried in Plateau state’s Riyom Local Government Area after they were killed, and three others seriously injured, on Tuesday, November 7, in Rim village, Christians familiar with the situation said.
Those killed were named as Felix Ngwong, 34; Gyang Emmanuel, 29; Chuwang Bitrus, 31; Daniel Nini, 52; Dagam Danbwarang, 29; Rueben Danbwarang, 25, Sunday Danbwarang, 52; Dachollom Shom, 37; and Daniel Shom, 45.
Several weeks earlier a Christian woman and her son and a daughter were killed by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen who have been raiding Christian communities in the central Nigerian states of Plateau, Kaduna, Benue, Taraba, and Niger, Christians said.
Christians comprise roughly 51 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent, according to several sources.
Nigeria currently ranks 12th on the annual World Watch List by advocacy group Open Doors of countries where Christians reportedly suffer most persecution.
The Nigerian government has come under domestic and international pressure to improve security for Christians, especially in Muslim-dominated areas and regions targeted by militants.