ONITSHA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian police said they found two bomb factories and arrested five suspected militants on Wednesday in the central state of Kogi where Islamist gunmen opened a new front in their insurrection this month.
Islamist sect Boko Haram has killed hundreds of security forces and civilians this year, most of them in the largely Muslim north of the country.
Suspected members of the group opened fire on the Deeper Life Bible center in the Kogi town of Okene on August 6, killing 19. It was the first time the group had struck that far south.
"We discovered two bomb factories, one in Okene, another in Okehi areas of the state," Kogi police spokesman Romanus Amadi said.
Officers had also found a car loaded with ammunition, two rocket launchers and explosive materials, he added.
The five were arrested in Okone on suspicion of "masterminding the killings", Amadi told Reuters.
Boko Haram says it is fighting to carve out an Islamic state in Nigeria - a country of 160 million people split evenly between Christians and Muslims - and to avenge the death of its founder Mohammed Yusuf who was killed in police custody in 2009.
A spate of crackdowns on the sect in the north appears to have weakened it since it launched its uprising in 2009 in its northeastern heartland of Maiduguri, on the threshold of the Sahara. But it still carries out near daily attacks.
Suspected Islamists shot dead two people on Tuesday night in Yobe state, in the northeast, police commissioner for the state Patrick Egbuniwe told Reuters.
A lull in attacks may be linked to the Ramadan fasting period and the celebrations after it that ended on Tuesday, security experts say, although militants waged gun battles at police checkpoints in the north's main city of Kano on Sunday.
(Reporting by Anamesere Igboeroteonwu; Additional reporting by Ibrahim Mshelizza in Maiduguri and Augustine Madu in Kano; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Joe Brock and Andrew Heavens)