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Masquerades ‘invade Anambra church, try to abduct priest’

The Anambra police command says it has arrested three masqueraders for allegedly disrupting a church programme in Idemili north local government area of the state

Nkeiruka Nwode, spokesman of the command, told journalists on Saturday that the suspects attacked worshipers on Friday night at the Holy Ghost Adoration Ministry, Uke.

“Three masqueraders have been arrested in connection with the church attack,” Nwode said, adding that “we have commenced investigation into the cause of the incident and would notify you when concluded”.

The masqueraders were said to be celebrating a festival known as “Uzo Iyi” festival when the attack occurred.

NAN reports that about 10 of them invaded the church, assaulted the worshipers and attempted to abduct Emmanuel Obinna, the spiritual director of the ministry, but for the quick response of the police.

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A witness said the leadership of the church immediately alerted the special anti-robbery squad of the police after the attackers arrived.

“On arrival, the operatives arrested three masqueraders, who were involved in the attack, but their colleagues attempted to stop them from taking the arrested masqueraders away, prompting SARS operatives to shoot sporadically into the air before taking them away,” the source said

Francis Okoye, personal assistant to the spiritual director, told journalists that Henry Nnajiofor, another Catholic priest, a seminarian and 28 others were injured during the attack.

He said: “The normal masquerade activities in Uke, to the best of my knowledge, ends by 6pm but as at 8pm on Friday, the masqueraders were still parading at the entrance route of Uke Adoration ground, extorting money from our members and robbing others in the guise of masquerade festival.

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“As at 8:30pm, we started receiving information that some masqueraders were attacking our members, flogging them and inflicting injuries.

“They flogged some of them, stabbed some with their weapons including machetes, while others were robbed of their mobile phones and other valuables.

“We quickly contacted the SARS office to assist our Adoration security team, who could not handle the situation at that point in time.

“When SARS arrived an hour later, they arrested two masqueraders but on their way back, the youths blocked the road and insisted that the masqueraders must be released; that was when SARS officials fired shots in the air to disperse them.

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“When SARS left, they re-grouped and this time came in their numbers to the Adoration premises, beating everybody including the elderly, the sick and pregnant women.

“Our Adoration youths, in defence, pursued them and arrested one other masquerader, who stayed in the Adoration ground with us until this morning (Saturday).”

He said the apprehended masquerade has been handed him over to soldiers of the Nigerian army “who came to our rescue”.

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