Kidnappings for ransom have become increasingly common in Imo state. Members of the clergy are frequent targets.
Gunmen abducted four Catholic nuns in Nigeria’s southeastern state of Imo, police said on Monday.
The kidnapping is the latest violent incident in the oil-producing region where separatist tensions are on the rise.
Although kidnappings by criminal gangs have become common in Africa’s most populous country, members of Christian churches have increasingly been targeted in recent weeks.
What happened in the kidnapping?
The four nuns were taken from a vehicle while traveling to mass, police told reporters, a further sign of highways in remote parts of Nigeria becoming increasingly unsafe.
Police said that no group had yet claimed responsibility for the abduction nor made a ransom demand. Most hostages are released after payment, but some have been killed.
In the southeast, the increase in armed violence has been blamed on local separtists known as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group or its armed wing ESN. The IPOB has categorically denied being involved.
The uptick in violence has seen 100 police officers and other security personnel killed since the beginning of last year. Prisons have also been raided, freeing scores of prisons and leaving troves of weapons unaccounted for.
Kidnappings for ransom have also become frequent in Nigeria’s northwest. Last year, there were at least ten mass kidnappings at regional schools. This has prompted the military to launch an air offensive against the armed gangs active in the region.