World Bulletin / News Desk
Nigerian security forces discovered a senior member of Boko Haram among a convoy of nearly 500 travellers arrested this week in the southern state of Abia, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.
News of the arrest comes as rebels are killing civilians almost daily, particularly in the largely Muslim north. At least 14 people were killed on Tuesday when a bomb tore through a venue in the northeast where fans had gathered to watch a World Cup match.
The presence of a senior Boko Haram member in Nigeria's south would stoke fears that they are pushing into regions well beyond their northern stronghold.
It would also raise concern the group, which drew worldwide attention in April when it kidnapped more than 200 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria, could eventually attempt attacks in the oil-rich Niger delta.
Officials said on Monday that nearly 500 people believed to be northerners had been arrested overnight while travelling through the south in convoy of more than 30 vans.
"The army is screening the 486 persons being held in Abia state," defence spokesman General Chris Olukolade told Reuters on Wednesday. It had identified a "kingpin belonging to Boko Haram" among them, he said.
The army did not release the suspect's name or photograph.
Some of those arrested had said they were headed for southern city of Port Harcourt to look for work, the government has said.
Boko Haram has shown its growing reach in recent months by moving beyond its heartland in Nigeria's weakly governed northeast. At least 118 people were killed in devastating back-to-back bomb blasts in the central city of Jos last month.Last Mod: 19 Haziran 2014, 12:16