Abuja - Nigeria's military said on Tuesday that they had detained more than 460 people travelling from the country's north to the south, reportedly on suspicion of being Boko Haram members.
Army spokesman Brigadier General Olajide Laleye said 462 people, including eight women, were held in southern Abia state on Monday as they headed on 36 buses from northern states such as Bauchi and Jigawa to Port Harcourt.
“It is after investigation that their status will be known,” he added in a text message to AFP.
Nigerian newspapers quoted southern politicians as linking the arrests to Boko Haram, which has been waging an increasingly deadly five-year insurgency in the north and claimed thousands of lives.
Africa's most populous nation, biggest oil producer and leading economy is split almost evenly between a Muslim-majority north and predominantly Christian south.
Large groups of northerners have previously been held in the south on suspicion of belonging to Boko Haram, raising concerns among Muslim leaders of religious “profiling”.
In January, around 300 traders from the north were held in southern Rivers state. Most were later released. Some 84 apprentices were also sent back to Katsina state during a training course in Imo, southeast Nigeria.
In 2012, the police in southeastern Enugu state arrested 25 hunters from northwestern Zamfara state on an annual hunting expedition to the forests, holding them for a month. They were also suspected of Boko Haram links. - AFP