Authorities in the capital of South Sudan’s Lakes State detained close to two dozen people including police officers and priests on Tuesday, a day after armed assailants shot Bishop-elect Christian Carlassare on the grounds of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek.
All employees at the diocese offices, including watchmen, have been detained for questioning, said Lakes State police spokesperson Captain Elijah Mabor Makuac.
“We have arrested 20 people currently under our custody, including some of our police personnel who were assigned there, including priests and the staff of the diocese who were around the crime scene. Up to now we are investigating the crime; we shall establish the motive very soon,” Makuac told VOA’s "South Sudan in Focus" program.
Bishop-elect Carlassare told "South Sudan in Focus" unknown gunmen stormed his residence early Monday and shot him in both legs for no apparent reason.
“At around 1 a.m. some people came at my door; when they saw the door was locked, they shoot, and I was not able to hold it closed. When the door was opened, I came out and asked them what they want. They started shooting my lower legs,” Father Carlassare told VOA.
Carlassare said on Monday that he had already forgiven his assailants.
“We don’t carry any grudge; we know [God] is greater than everything and he can convert our hearts and bring bad things to good, so let us be united in prayer,” said Carlassare.
Carlassare was flown to Juba on Monday and later transported to Nairobi for further medical treatment.
Monsignor John Mathiang Machol said he was awakened by the sound of gunshots and shouting, then went running toward the commotion.
“It should not happen here because life is very important for us and the service the bishop is doing in this church…We received him wholeheartedly and then we welcomed him. This has shocked us, especially me,” Machol told "South Sudan in Focus".
Police spokesman Makuac called on the public, particularly social media users, to avoid spreading misinformation about the incident.
“The wild rumors circulating on social media should not be relied on. This is a criminal case and it is a typical police concern. Police have taken charge of this, so whoever is circulating information that he knows and puts it on social media, I don’t know where they get that, because we are still investigating and all the papers are with us,” he said.
Lakes State Governor Makur Kulang Liei, who condemned the attack, has formed a committee that includes national security service agents to oversee the investigation.
State Information Minister William Koji Kerjok said the panel will be headed by the minister for Cabinet affairs.
Kerjok said those arrested in connection with the attack include the person he described as “the major suspect.” He did not identify the person.
The situation remained tense on Tuesday in Rumbek, where a heavy deployment of security forces could be seen on foot in several areas, especially near the offices of the diocese.
Carlassare was appointed on March 8 as the new leader of the Rumbek diocese. He arrived on April 15 to prepare for his installation on May 23.
This marks the second time a Catholic priest has been attacked in Lakes State. In 2018, a Jesuit priest was shot dead in the middle of the night at his residence in Cueibet County.