Nigerian police are offering a reward of over $300,000 for information leading to the recapture of the alleged mastermind of a deadly Christmas Day church bombing.
Officials say Kabiru Sokoto escaped custody on Wednesday when gang members attacked a police vehicle while he was being escorted to another police station.
President Goodluck Jonathan has threatened to fire Nigeria's inspector general of police (Hafiz Ringhim) unless Sokoto is re-arrested by Friday. The police commissioner who ordered the transfer has been suspended.
The case has prompted some in Nigeria to complain that the police are not doing enough to protect civilians from terrorist attacks.
Police spokesperson Olusola Amore says police are doing their best to recapture Sokoto. He says Interpol and other regional governments are helping with the manhunt.
“We have passed on information to all members of the West African police organizations, and all members of the Nigerian police and other security agencies have been alerted all around the country.”
Amore said that Nigerian officials are closely watching the border. Some suspect that Sokoto may attempt to flee Nigeria en route to Europe.
Police think Sokoto may be responsible for planning the bombing of the St. Theresa Catholic Church outside the capital of Abuja, which killed at least 37 people. It was the deadliest in a series of coordinated attacks on Christmas Day.
Insurgent group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks.
Some in Nigeria think that Sokoto's escape may indicate that Boko Haram sympathizers have infiltrated government security agencies. President Jonathan voiced similar concerns earlier this month.
Nigeria, which is divided between a largely Christian south and a mostly Muslim north, has seen escalating sectarian violence in recent months. President Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in many parts of the north in response to the unrest, but the attacks have continued.
Boko Haram says it is working to implement Islamic law across Nigeria. Its name means “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa, the main language of the north.