At least 11 killed in ‘bar­baric’ church shoot­ing in Nige­ria

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

At least 11 wor­ship­pers were shot dead at a church in south­east Nige­ria on Sun­day, with au­thor­i­ties sug­gest­ing the blood­shed was due to a lo­cal feud. Nige­rian Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari con­demned the at­tack, de­scrib­ing the in­ci­dent as “an ap­palling crime against hu­man­ity and un­speak­able sac­ri­lege,” his of­fice said.

Buhari said “there was no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion what­so­ever to tar­get church wor­ship­pers and kill them in cold blood.” At around 6:00 am (0500 GMT ) at least one gun­man opened fire at Saint Philip’s church in Ozubulu, near the city of Onit­sha, unleashing terror on the con­gre­ga­tion. Chuk­wuma Emeka said he had just stepped out of the church to stretch his legs “when I heard gun­shots and scream­ing and peo­ple run­ning in­side.” “When the chaos sub­sided I went in­side, I saw my fel­low church mem­bers dead in a pool of their own blood and many others were scream­ing in pain.”

At­tacks on churches are rare in south­ern Nige­ria, where there is a pre­dom­i­nantly Chris­tian pop­u­la­tion. The coun­try’s main­lyMus­lim north has been gripped by a vi­o­lent cam­paign by Boko Haram ji­hadists, who spe­cial­ize in tar­get­ing re­li­gious cen­ters. There were vary­ing ac­counts of what hap­pened in Ozubulu. Wit­nesses said five gun­men in masks stormed the church, but po­lice said the killing was the work of a lone shooter. “So far, 12 per­sons have been con­firmed dead and de­posited in the mor­tu­ary here,” a worker at Nnamdi Azikwe Univer­sity Teach­ing Hos­pi­tal told AFP.

Garba Umar, Anam­bra State po­lice Com­mis­sioner, later said 11 peo­ple were killed while 18 were in­jured as a re­sult of the shoot­ing. Sev­eral wor­ship­pers with gun­shot wounds were also re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at the hos­pi­tal, the source said. Wit­nesses said they feared that up to 20 peo­ple may have died.

Umar said the at­tacker was a gun­man who “went on a shoot­ing spree, killing and wound­ing” wor­ship­pers. He said the vi­o­lence was the re­sult of a failed mur­der at­tempt, tied to a feud within the lo­cal com­mu­nity. “The in­for­ma­tion at the dis­posal of the po­lice is that the gun­man had been hired to kill a par­tic­u­lar fam­ily per­son be­lieved to be among the wor­ship­pers,” he said.

He said the gov­er­nor of the state vis­ited the scene and promised to pay the med­i­cal bills of the in­jured. Lo­cal rights ac­tivist Emeka Umeag­bal­asi said his in­for­ma­tion about the mo­tive largely con­curred with that of the po­lice ver­sion. The gun­men had gone to kill the son of a lo­cal chief but failed to find him at his home, Umeag­bal­asi said. The at­tack­ers then went to the church to hunt for him, but could not find the in­tended tar­get and be­came an­gry, he said. They opened “fire on parish­ioners and shot in­dis­crim­i­nately,” he said, ad­ding that the fa­ther of the in­tended tar­get was shot and wounded. Speaker of Nige­ria’s House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Yakubu Dog­ara called the at­tack “bar­baric... the height of wicked­ness.”

He ex­tended his con­do­lences to fam­i­lies of the vic­tims, as­sur­ing them that the gov­ern­ment would do ev­ery­thing within its power to track down those re­spon­si­ble. Hun­dreds of churches and mosques in Nige­ria’s north have been at­tacked since 2009 when Boko Haram be­gan a vi­o­lent cam­paign to im­pose strict Is­lamic law. The re­bel­lion has killed at least 20,000 peo­ple and forced some 2.6 mil­lion others to flee their homes, spark­ing a dire hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in the north­east.— AFP

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