Nigeria's secret police on Monday arrested two journalists after a report of alleged abuses by troops battling Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, their newspaper said.
Agents of the state security service (SSS), in pre-dawn raids, picked up the editor of Almizan, Musa Muhammad Awwal, and reporter Aliyu Saleh, along with their wives, the weekly's editor-in-chief Ibrahim Musa told AFP.
Saleh's son was also arrested, he said. The arrests occurred in the northern city of Kaduna, where the regional newspaper has an office.
Their wives and the son were released later Monday, he noted.
Threatened, beaten up and arrested
"Armed men from the SSS accompanied by soldiers broke into the homes of our editor ... and reporter ... around 4:00 am today and took them away along with their two wives and the son of the reporter after manhandling them," Musa said in a statement.
"We believe their arrest was in connection with a story we published in our latest edition on the arrests of 84 people in the town of Potiskum in Yobe state by soldiers on suspicion of belonging to Boko Haram sect and denying their families access to them."
Musa called for “the immediate and unconditional release of our staff whose arrests have violated due process and the individual human rights."
Soon after her release Awwal’s wife spoke to local journalists where she described around 20 security officials in SUV vehicles stormed their house and threatened to shoot them if they didn’t open the door. The house was ransacked and the army took away their laptops, mobile phones and some cash.
“They ordered everyone to lie on the floor, then went to beat up my husband severely,” she said.
Army's reaction to the arrest
In an interview with a local newspaper Leadership, assistant director of the Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani K. Usman said, “I was not aware of the arrest. I will investigate the issue because up to 10 people, including journalists have called me on this issue.”
“I can assure you that no one has authorised such an operation, and it could not have come from our men. All my checks reliably showed that there was no movement of such troops from any of our formation in the North. That is all I can tell you for now. If I get anything, I will let you know,” Usman said to local newspaper This Day Live.
Residents and human rights bodies have accused troops of abuses, including arbitrary arrests and killings of civilians, in connection with Boko Haram's insurgency in Nigeria's northern and central regions.
Violence linked to the insurgency is believed to have left some 3,000 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.
Sources: AFP and reports