West & Central Africa

Gunman kills worshippers in Nigeria Catholic church attack

At least 11 people were killed yesterday (6 August)  in an early morning church attack in Nigeria.

The attack took place at St. Philip Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Ekwusigo Local Government Area, of Anambra State, south eastern Nigeria when gunmen came into the church and opened fire, according to eye witnesses. A further 18 people were wounded in the attack and are receiving treatment at Nnamdi Azikwe University Teaching Hospital Nnewi.
The Anambra State Police Commissioner, Garba Umar said, “We gathered that worshippers for 6 o’clock Sunday mass at St. Philip Ozobulu were in the service when a gunman dressed in black attire covering his face with a cap entered the church and moved straight to a particular direction and opened fire. “The man after shooting at his targeted victims still went on a shooting spree, killing and wounding other worshippers.”

He added that, “From our findings, it is very clear that the person who carried the attack must be an indigene of the area.”

Chibueze Okafor, 23 years, who was in the church when the attack happened, said “I was sitting close to the side door in the Church when the men came in.

It was as if the man was looking for someone. Then they started shooting… I ran to the door and people were on the ground. Blood from the head of one man. I saw people lying dead on the floor. I don’t know how many were killed. Others were hiding under the seats, while some used the back door close to the alter. I joined them to hide under the seat because I was confused, I was shaking.”

Raymond Ike, 41, said he lives near the church, “I can even hear the sound of preaching and praises going on in the church… I was still lying on my bed when I heard several gun shots. It was around 7am or so and I was scared to go out and check what was happening. You know this our area. I thought it was armed robbers. I came out only when I heard people crying and many were shouting. I summoned courage and went outside the gate with my neighbors. It was when we got there that we saw it happened at St Phillips Catholic Church. A large crowd gathered, some were crying and dead bodies were still lying there,” said Raymond.

The state Police Commissioner said the attack was a sacrilegious act. “Such conduct shows the people behind the act do not fear God.” He urged people not to associate the attack to any terrorism or a Boko Haram attack.

Residents of the Ozubulu community opined that the gunmen stormed the church at Ofufe Amakwa Ozubulu looking for Ebubechukwu Uzo, the son of a south African based member of the community Chief Alloysius Ikegwuonu popularly called ‘Bishop’. who had contributed to the building of the church, in what a resident said “a deal gone wrong.”

When they didn’t find the man they were looking for, the gunmen shot at people at a particular pew in the church, possibly members of the family.
The police, confirming the theory, said no names will be given at this stage of the investigation.

The Anambra State Governor, Obiano, who visited the scene of the shooting and the victims at the hospital said, “This is sacrilegious, totally unacceptable in Anambra State.” Obiano said, “We can’t allow this happen in Anambra, we must get everyone involved to face the music.”

 

Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN. He is also the Media Director and priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.

Image Credits: Yemi Kosoko

Additional contribution by Patrick Egwu