An eight-year-old boy and 10 others were killed on Sunday when suicide bombers attacked St. Finbarr’s Catholic Church, Rayfield, Jos, Plateau State.
One of the bombers died in the blast while another, who barely survived, was mobbed and killed by an irate crowd at the church where a former Deputy Governor of the state, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, worships.
The church’s security team were said to have recorded the highest number of casualties.
Yesterday’s attack came barely two weeks after suicide bombers had attacked the headquarters of the Church of Christ in Nigeria, where the state Governor, Jonah Jang, worships.
Sources said that the St. Finbarr’s Church bombers had planned to attack the 10am Mass favoured by many prominent residents of Rayfield.
The church is located less than two kilometres to Government House, Rayfield, and about 100 metres to the television arm of the Plateau State Radio and Television Corporation.
After the incident, four other persons were reportedly killed in reprisal attacks in various parts of the Jos metropolis. Ten others were injured.
Plateau State Police Public Relations Officer, Samuel Dabai, however, put the casualty at 10.
On Sunday, Boko Haram claimed responsiblity for the bombing, telling reporters via a telephone call that the suicide bombing was carried out to avenge the “killing and dehumanisation of Muslims”.
“We attacked simply because it’s a church and we can decide to attack any other church. We have just started,” said Abu Qaqa, the spokesperson of the sect.
Boko Haram had last December 25, killed 44 worshippers at St Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Medical Director, Plateau Specialist Hospital, Jos, Dr. Matawwal Bitrus, confirmed that the hospital received the corpses of six victims.
A corpse was also said to have been deposited at the morgue of University of Jos Teaching Hospital.
The Chief Medical Director, JUTH, Dr. Ishaya Pam, said, “We received 15 casualties from the attack. One of the victims died while 14 sustained various degrees of injuries and are in critical conditions.
“Some sustained varying degrees of burns while three had gunshot wounds. But they are in stable condition and responding to treatment.”
The Red Cross indicated that it had taken 22 injured people to various hospitals in Jos metropolis.
The state Chairman of the Red Cross, Mr. Manasseh Pampe, said, “For now, we have 22 injured at the JUTH, Plateau Specialist Hospital and Air Force Military Hospital in Jos.
“Many of the injured are stable and responding to treatment. But we also noted that some of the injured were taken to different hospitals in the metropolis by different people.
“For now, we don’t know the actual number of those taken to these hospitals by their relatives.”
The Special Task Force spokesman, Captain Markus Mdahyelya, said the security outfit was responding to an emergency and would issue a statement on the incident later.
“We are in an emergency situation now; we will react to that one later. There is a report of reprisal attack in Mai Aidiko and we are trying to bring the situation under control,” he told NAN on the telephone.
Eyewitnesses said the incident occurred less than 30 minutes after a military convoy on a show of force passed the road directly opposite the church located less than 50 metres to a checkpoint.
Our correspondent gathered that the bombers tried to force their way through the gate, but it was locked. This made the driver to ram the car into a fence and the bomb exploded on impact.
The house of the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Peter Umoren, was affected as the windows were shattered by the blast, which reverberated more than five kilometres away.
The remains of one of the suicide bombers and the motorcycle he came in were set ablaze by angry youths.
Another eyewitness, Prof. John Wade, told our correspondent that the blast went off just as the first reading of the morning Mass was about to be taken.
Wade, the pioneer Vice- Chancellor of the University of Jos, said, “As I came into the church, I was searched. I walked in and took my seat for the 10am Mass. We were just about to take the First Reading of the mass when the bomb went off. There was pandemonium everywhere because the Hausa service had just ended, and parishioners who attended that Mass were going out.”
The father of the eight-year-old victim, Mr. James Ofefe, told our correspondent that his son went outside the church to ease himself when the blast occurred.
Ofefe, who was crying profusely, said, “What will I tell my people down home in the East. They have been telling me to return home and now I have lost my only son.”
Among the items recovered from the scene of the bombing were a military helmet, belts and police beret.
Irked by the bomb blast, angry youths took over the roads, made bonfires and prevented both rescuers and security agents from reaching the scene of the incident.
The youths were also said to be protesting alleged shooting of two young protesters by the security agents.
“There are rumours of reprisals from Christian youths, but we hope the security agents are on top of the situation as they have cordoned off the area,” Alhassan Danjuma Aliyu, an official of the National Emergency Management Agency, told the Agence France Presse.
Officer in Charge of the Bomb Disposal Unit in Plateau and Bauchi states, Abel Mbibi, who arrived with his team, was prevented from gaining access to the scene by the angry youths.
The Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Very Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, described the perpetrators of the act as evil men.
Kaigama, who arrived the church at around 12.30pm, said the resolve of the bombers was to stop people from attending churches.
He said, “The bombing is a practical demonstration of evil. Nothing can separate us from the love of God; judgment and punishment belong to God.
“We call for calm not because we are cowards, but because of the reason that killing is irrational and criminal. Evil has taken place but it will not triumph. This tragedy will not erase Christianity because we don’t take the laws into our hands; we don’t teach suicide bombing. The worst has happened, but it is not the end. Let us mourn the dead. May the souls of all those killed rest in perfect peace.”
Secretary to the state government, Prof. Shedrack Best, who addressed the worshippers, conveyed the condolence of the Jang administration to the church and families of the bereaved.
The State Police Commissioner, Mr. Emmanuel Ayeni, who arrived the scene immediately after the blast, could not speak with newsmen as he was busy coordinating rescue efforts with NEMA officials.
The Civil Liberties Organisation condemned the blast.
Executive Director, Mr. Steve Aluko, in a statement, said, “The unprovoked act of terror and selected murder of innocent Nigerians be it religious or ethnicity, is unacceptable. We call on the government and security agents to stem the tide before it degenerates.”
Culled from : The Punch