Kaduna State was yesterday thrown into another round of pandemonium following a suicide bomb blast that rocked the Saint Rita's Catholic Church at Ungwa Yero in Malali, Kaduna North LGA. The church has a capacity to accommodate over 1,000 worshipers.
The blast, which affected mostly women and children, killed at least 15 people and severely injured about150 including the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Bonet Micah.
The victims were rushed to several hospitals within the Kaduna metropolis. Although details of the numbers could not be ascertained officially, our correspondents gathered that three dead bodies and 35 injured persons were taken to 44 Army Reference Hospital, four bodies and over 88 injured persons were taken to Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital, 14 injured persons were taken to Saint Gerard Catholic Hospital, one dead body and 14 injured persons were taken to Garkuwa Hospital, three injured persons were taken to Giwa Hospital, and two injured persons were taken to Yusuf Dantsoho Hospital.
The location of the church is more or less like a border separating the Kwaru, Badarawa and Ungwa Yero areas; while Christians dominate the Ungwa Yero axis, Muslims dominate the other areas. They are normally flashpoints during any crisis in Kaduna.
LEADERSHIP had reported, prior to the Sallah celebration, that there could be security threats during the Eid-El-Kabir celebration, but a top security operative told our correspondent that all flashpoints had been properly manned across the state.
According to eyewitness accounts at the scene of the blast, the suicide bomber came in a tinted Toyota jeep and was led by a motorcyclist who, apparently, was showing him the way leading to the church.
A security source in Kaduna confirmed that some other people were attacked and killed immediately after the terror attack. The sources said security agents tried to manage the tense situation in order to avert escalation of reprisal attacks.
He disclosed that the attacker rammed his car through the wall and inside the church before the explosion. He stated that five worshipers died on the spot and that four of the seriously wounded parishioners died in the hospital later.
The incident led to abrupt closure of church services within Kaduna metropolis.
The Catholic Archbishop of Kaduna Diocese, His Grace Bishop Matthew Man-Ndagoso, visited the Saint Gerard Catholic Hospital where he expressed his displeasure. The bishop said: "I feel more pained in my heart over this unfortunate incident as 90 per cent of the victims are children. We pray for their quick recovery and fortitude to bear the loss of those who died in the process. My appeal is to the Christians, especially the Catholic youths, not to consider reprisal as an option as this will rather create more tension and add to the already bad situation".
It is well - Rev. Micah
The parish priest, Rev. Fr. Bonet Micah, who was conducting the morning mass also suffered some degree of injuries. He could not speak to the press while receiving treatment at the Garkuwa Specialist Hospital, but he simply said, "It is well". His car was also damaged by the blast.
Grace Joseph, Veronica Angusa and Elisha Daniang, who survived the attack, though with various degrees of injuries and were receiving treatment at some of the hospitals, expressed thanks to God for being alive to tell their stories. "We just heard a loud sound of explosion when the morning mass was going on and the next thing was that the church building was falling down," said Angusa.
Suicide bomber disguised by wearing a cross chain on his neck - Andrew
One Mr Andrew confirmed that the suicide bomber was wearing a cross chain disguising himself to be a Christian in a jeep with tinted glass. "The bomber discovered to be on a suicide mission was wearing a cross chain on his neck; he suddenly resisted church security and hurriedly rammed into the church," he said.
We tried stopping him - Church security
The church security who spoke to our correspondents confirmed that when the man came in the jeep, they tried stopping him from entering on grounds that no vehicle was allowed to park inside, but he resisted. "The man came and we tried to stop him. He pretended as if he was reversing and, all of a sudden, manoeuvred his way with heavy speed and rammed through the church fence into the church building, then a loud explosion was the next thing we heard."
Tension spontaneously filled the air as churches even far away from the scene of the blast abruptly shared the grace and everybody quickly moved to their various houses, apparently for fear of reprisal attacks. Shops where also closed and the roads became deserted. People were seen hanging beside their houses watching for the next thing that would happen.
Shortly after the bomb explosion, a team of security operatives was mobilised to the scene, an action that helped in averting a more devastating reprisal that would have occurred. Other security men where also deployed to major flashpoints that could ignite a crisis while several other security checkpoints where mounted.
Meanwhile, the state police commissioner, Olufemi Adenaike, who spoke to our correspondents appealed for calm, assuring that all was being done to ensure safety of life and property. He said he could not ascertain the number of casualties immediately.
The situation in Kaduna was, however, calm as at press time.
How we escaped death - choir master, altar boy
The unfortunate bomb blast that rocked the Saint Rita's Catholic Church, Ungwa Yero, Malali, was said to have occurred at the middle of consecration, as the mass was ongoing. The attack, which affected mainly children of teen age from the choir, also did not spare other church members some of whom are in critical condition.
Mr Ezekiel Daniang, the choir master of the church, said the bomb attack occurred barely a few minutes after he finished conducting the choir songs and left the choir position to attend to something else far away from the choir. All of a sudden he heard an ear-blowing sound as the walls of the church began to fall apart, he said.
"As usual, we sing in between mass activities; so I just finished conducting one of such interval songs and I left to attend to another function within the church when, all of a sudden, I heard a loud sound when a jeep vehicle rammed into the church building through the fence.
"The people that were mostly affected are my choir members and the little children, although some other members of the church like those on the altar and the priest were also affected. Two persons died instantly including the suicide bomber, but there were over 150 others injured with some in critical condition right now," he said.
The altar boy, Emmanuel Thomas, said but for the intervention of the parish priest who drew him away, he would have suffered more injuries than he had. "When we heard the first sound, the priest thought it was a spark of light, then suddenly a heavy blast occurred crushing the wall of the church and people started running. The next place I found myself was in this hospital," he said.
2 injured as bomb explodes near Bauchi secretariat
Two people were reportedly injured on Saturday night when an improvised explosive device (IED)detonated along Illelah Street, behind Bauchi local government secretariat.
A top security source who pleaded anonymity, however, said no casualty was recorded as a result of the incident because the explosive device, which was planted at an open field, was not targeted at anybody. "Two people later reported to the hospital claiming that they sustained injuries from the blast, so we turned them as our suspects because everybody knows there was no casualty. But since they claimed to have sustained injuries from the blast, they might be those that planted it and sustained injury in the process. We have commenced investigation into the matter," the source said.
But eyewitnesses told LEADERSHIP that they heard a loud noise around 9: 30pm on Saturday that threw the residents of the area and passers-by into panic as everybody scampered for safety.
When contacted, the police public relations officer (PPRO) of the Bauchi State command, DSP Abubakar Idris, told our correspondent that he heard about the incident but could not confirm because he was currently out of town. The commissioner of police, Muhammed Ladan, declined comment, lamenting that journalists in Bauchi do not call him "until when something has occurred".
Another suspected bomber held
In another development, a suspected suicide bomber was yesterday arrested in Yelwa, a suburb of the Bauchi metropolis, when he attempted to attack a church during Sunday's morning service. It was said that the suspect was nabbed by the youths at a church in the area when he rode towards the place of worship, even though there was a barricade at the entrance. The youths apprehend and handed him over to the Yelwa police station.
NEMA confirms 8 dead, over 145 people injured
The spokesman of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Yushua Shuaib, said that NEMA rescue team in collaboration with stakeholders have so far confirmed at least eight people killed and more than 145 injured from the explosion at the Catholic church in Malali of Kaduna State.
According to Shuaib, this figure was at 1.45pm.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Islamist sect Boko Haram has claimed similar attacks in the past and has attacked several churches with bombs and guns as it intensified its campaign against Christians in the past year.
Jonathan: Kaduna church suicide bombing is barbaric
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday condemned the suicide bomb attack on a Catholic Church in Kaduna, saying it was a barbaric and cruel act by criminal and unpatriotic elements that are bent on wielding back the wheels of progress by his administration to tackle terrorism in the country. The federal government will not give up, he said.
Special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, noted in a statement that Jonathan, who was extremely saddened by the explosion, described it as "barbaric, cruel and uncalled for". He said the president "expressed confidence that the war against terrorism would become more unrelenting as the nation would never give in to the forces of terror and retardation".
Abati said the president observed that the apparent objective of the criminal and unpatriotic elements and forces behind the attack was to set back the progress the administration has made in the fight against terrorism in the country.
"It is obvious that these people do not mean well for Nigeria and its unity and development," the presidential spokesman quoted Jonathan as saying.
He said the president added that the persistence of messengers of evil will not prevail over the will of the government and the people to secure peace and safety".
"Our efforts to deal with all acts of terror and violence would only be redoubled even as the security agencies continue to receive all the support they need from government to reverse this unfortunate and unacceptable trend that threatens the peace and stability of our nation," Abati further quoted President Jonathan as saying.
He said Jonathan "commiserated with the Catholic Church, family and friends of the victims of the bombing, assuring them that government's resolve to deal with the threat of terrorism remains strong".
Mark condemns renewed attack on churches
President of the Senate David Mark yesterday condemned the renewed attack on places of worship particularly the attack on St. Theresa Catholic Church, Kaduna, on Sunday, describing it as disheartening, embarrassing and condemnable.
Mark, in a statement by his media adviser, Kola Ologbodinyan, warned that it is never too late for the perpetrators of this dastard act to repent from their sinful acts against God.
"We don't deserve this. This is inhuman and alien to us. Let's put our differences aside and join hands with governments and security operatives to halt these senseless killings. We have enough channels to iron out any differences. Give peace a chance," he said.
Tambuwal condemns Kaduna blast
Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has strongly condemned the outrageous and senseless attack on St. Rita's Catholic Church, Kaduna, yesterday.
In a statement signed by his special adviser on media and public affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal added that the attack on the innocent worshippers and other bystanders is both callous and senseless.
He urged Nigerians to remain resolute and not despair, saying it is gladdening that security agents have made commendable strides in efforts to handle the menace of terrorism in the country in recent months.
He however urged them to do more to destroy the ability of the terrorists to unleash mayhem on innocent, peaceful and law-abiding Nigerians.
While condoling with the families of the victims of the attack, the speaker said the House of Representatives would continue to support all efforts aimed at securing the lives and property of all persons in all parts of the country.