Church members in Jos, Plateau State, and Biu in Borno State yesterday came under attack.
In Jos, a suicide bomber drove into the auditorium of Christ Chosen Church, along Rukuba Road in Jos North LGA, during worship hours, in a bomb-laden car which exploded, killing no fewer than 10 worshippers and over 60 critically injured. In Biu, gunmen invaded the EYN Church and opened fire on the worshippers. Many of the worshippers were said to have been killed while others received various degrees of injuries.
Security agencies were not forthcoming with the actual figure of casualties. They however, said there were also reprisal attacks after the Jos suicide bombing in which four motorcyclists were lynched.
The explosion brought down the entire church building, destroying chairs, tables and musical instruments as well as cars and motorcycles.
An eyewitness, Emeka, who narrowly escaped death in the bomb attack and was admitted at the Birgham University Teaching Hospital, BUTH, told LEADERSHIP that they were inside the church and the pastor was preaching when they saw a car which was coming in high speed into the church premises and immediately exploded. The church building was said to have collapsed on people as the building was enveloped in fire.
Another survivor, Odey Randy (29), who was injured on the leg, told LEADERSHIP that he was coming from where he went to buy provision when he saw a blue Toyota Corolla car parked at the junction and, soon after, the occupant of the car drove very quickly to the church premises before the car exploded.
Francisca Peter, a housewife who had burns all over her body, told LEADERSHIP that she was inside the church when the building collapsed on them after the explosion that set the building ablaze.
According to one Mrs Peter, her six-year-old daughter, Blessing, was yet to be found as she was in the children’s section of the church when the blast occurred.
She lamented that she would die if the girl was not found alive, saying that the girl meant everything to her. She was her only daughter, she said, adding that she had reached menopause and would not be able to conceive again.
Bomber disguised as church member
An eyewitness, Mr Richard Jonah, revealed how the bomber drove to the church around 11am after convincing the church security personnel that he was a church member who came to worship. After the security cleared him to enter the church, the bomber accelerated and rammed the car at the wall of the church which led to the explosion. The affected church is located a few minutes’ drive from the Maxwell Khobe army barracks.
According to Jonah, the bomber entered through the gate after deceiving the security personnel that he was a member coming for service.
“But immediately he entered into the premises, he drove straight into the church building and hit the structure with the bomb-laden vehicle while the second service was still going on,” he said.
The pastor of Christ Chosen Church of God, Monday Uzoka, his wife and two children are among the 62 victims affected by the bomb.
Medical personnel at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) disclosed that Uzoka and another Church elder were in ``very critical situation’’.
Mrs. Maria Goni, BUTH’s director of nursing services, told our correspondent that the duo had to be transferred to JUTH ``because they were in a serious condition and in dire need of surgery``.
The rest of the 60 victims were on admission at the nearby BUTH.
An eyewitness who did not want his name in print said he saw three dead bodies taken away from the site.
The commissioner of police, Plateau State Command Dipo Emmanuel, while confirming the incident, told newsmen that so far three persons including the suicide bombers had been confirmed dead and over 41 persons critically injured and receiving treatment in various hospitals in the state.
But, the Special Task Force, STF, on Jos crisis, in a statement signed by the media information officer, Captain Mdahyelya Markus, said there was an explosion at the Christ Chosen Church of God, adding that the suicide bomber drove into the premises in a saloon car marked (Plateau) BSA 36 AA. The IED exploded killing the bomber and damaging four cars while 28 people were injured, it said.
Journalists and security operatives also came under attack from restive youths who chased them out of the scene. They burnt down four cars while the official vehicle of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was seriously vandalised. The crew narrowly escaped death.
Gunmen spray bullets at worshippers
The Borno attack is coming barely a few days after gunmen attacked the state’s police command, killing a police officer and four others. The gunmen numbering four had stormed the EYN church in Biu local government area of Borno State, and opened fire on the worshippers. Many people were reportedly killed and others injured.
According to an eyewitness who was among the worshippers in the church, ”three gunmen came to the premises of the church and started shooting people outside the church before going into the main hall of the church where the attackers shot sporadically; I am sure that many people died”.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Biu town, Samson Bukar, has confirmed the attack. He said that only one woman was killed in the attack, while many worshippers were seriously injured.
The Commissioner of Police, Borno State Command Bala Hassan, also confirmed the attack, saying that no arrest had been made. “The attack on the church on Gombe-Biu Road happened at about 9am when four young men fired at the church.
“The attackers fled shortly after, but the police recovered a pistol, one of the weapons used during the attack ,” Hassan said.
Biu, which is about 85 kilometres away from Maiduguri, is one of the local government areas in the state that is under the state of emergency. It has witnessed a series of attacks since the beginning of insurgency in state.
Boko Haram claims responsibility
Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing and shooting at two churches yesterday.
Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted a spokesman of the group as telling journalists in Maiduguri in a telephone conference that more violence would follow.
The sect said: “We are responsible for the suicide attack on a church in Jos and also another attack on another church in Biu. We launched these attacks to prove the Nigerian security wrong and to debunk their claim that we have been weakened by the military crackdown.”