Another deadly suicide bomb attack was witnessed in Jos, Plateau State, yesterday. A pregnant woman and nine other people were killed during bomb attacks on St. Finbarr's Catholic Church, Rayfield, Jos. But the attacks also led to a reprisal action in which no fewer than 10 people were killed.
The attack was carried out when two suicide bombers suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect rammed their vehicle into the gate of the church.
The headquarters of the Church Of God In Nigeria, COCIN, located in Jos city, came under a similar attack penultimate Sunday. Two suicide bombers riding in an exotic jeep had rammed it into the church, leaving several persons dead. The COCIN attack also resulted in a reprisal attacks which also left many dead and injured.
As in the COCIN attack, no fewer than 30 vehicles belonging to the worshippers were destroyed while the glass windows and the PVC ceilings of the church building were scattered. Other adjoining buildings across the road within the church neighbourhood were equally affected.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the suicide bombers, who drove in a Vento car and a motorcycle simultaneously rammed into the church's gate at about 10.30am when they found that they could not gain easy access into the church due to the heavy security measures adopted by the church.
A former vice-chancellor of Plateau State University (PLASU), Prof. John Wade, who gave an account of the attack, told LEADERSHIP that 10 minutes after he entered the church auditorium, the two suicide bombers in a Vento car and a motorcycle rammed into the church gate and the next thing the congregation heard was a big explosion which, he said, killed the two suicide bombers instantly. He added that four other church worshippers including a pregnant woman were burnt beyond recognition.
He said, "If not that the gate of the Church was firmly locked, the number of casualties would have been very high, but thank God, the gate of the church was firmly locked thereby reducing the number of casualties.
Prof. Wade's 406 Peugeot car was among cars destroyed by the blast . According to him, most of the affected church worshippers were not directly inside the church, but were in the church compound attending to the church service that was going on at the time the suicide bombers struck.
The impact of the explosion left a big hole on the tarred road in front of the church while the car in which the suicide bombers drove was completely burnt. Some angered youths who were at the scene of the attack descended on the second bomber who accompanied the bomb-laden car from a motorcycle and lynched him.
The youths, who went on a rampage in the city after the attack, left no fewer than 10 other people dead. LEADERSHIP gathered that three people were killed in an abattoir, three in Jenta Ademu, two around West of Mine and another two in Tudun Wada.
The parish priest, Rev. Fr. Peter Umorem, disclosed that one of the casualties was a little Boy's Scout member manning the gate at the time of the attack. He said the boy died instantly.
The cleric recounted: "I was at the altar when I heard a loud explosion. Suddenly, things were falling all over and there was pandemonium in the church.
"Some members grabbed me and took me to a safe place. I later learnt that it was a suicide attack and that the bomber tried to enter through the gate but was prevented. That was when he rammed into the fence wall and exploded the device, killing the scout boy."
The state commissioner for health, Dr. Sati Datwat, who confirmed the reprisal attacks, said:
"The situation is bad. Several were killed in the reprisal attacks, more than 10."
Catholic archbishop of Jos Ignatius Kaigama, who rushed to the scene of the explosion, told agitated church worshippers that the suicide attacks were practical demonstration of evil. "People were being robbed of their faith; robbers of faith will not go unpunished," he said.
Calling for calm among the church faithful, Kiagama said, "Not because we are cowards but because of reason. Killing is irrational, beastly and criminal. Evil has taken place but it will not triumph. This tragedy will not erase Christianity. Don't take the law into your hands; we don't teach suicide bombing."
Soldiers, police and SSS operatives who rushed to the scene of the explosion had a tough time trying to contain the protesting youths who demanded the immediate removal of soldiers from the streets of Jos. They accused the soldiers of failing in their responsibility to protect lives and property of the people.
Sporadic gunshots were fired by the soldiers of the Special Task Force, STF, to contain the situation that was getting of hand.
Plateau State police command's spokesman ASP Samuel Dabai, in his reaction, said no fewer than 10 people were killed in the attack while no fewer than 10 others received injuries and were receiving treatment at undisclosed hospitals in Jos.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has condemned the St. Finbarr's Gatholic Churchattack and reiterated his administration's total commitment to ending the spate of bombings rocking the nation, especially the northern region.
Speaking through his spokesman, Dr. Ruben Abati, the president urged Nigerians not to be discouraged by the persistence of the attacks in spite of government's efforts to deal decisively with the menace of terrorism within the country's borders.
He said, "Despite seeming appearances to the contrary, government is indeed winning the war against the terrorists and will continue to progressively destroy their ability to unleash murderous attacks on peaceful, law-abiding Nigerians.
"In this regard, it is worthy of note that in recent weeks national security agencies have identified and arrested more of these agents of darkness than at any other time. Their hideouts and modus operandi are also being consistently exposed."
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to either perform his constitutional duty of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians or quit office without any further delay.
In a statement signed by its national coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and made available to LEADERSHIP, the group expressed displeasure at the incessant bombings of churches. It also decried the incompetent and totally undisciplined judiciary in Nigeria for compromising the enforcement of the principle of rule of law by allowing alleged perpetrators of insecurity and terrorism to escape the long arm of the Nigerian law.