Gunmen Launch Murderous Rampage in Catholic Church in Nigeria

ozubuluAn attack on parishioners who were attending Mass at St. Philip’s Catholic Church in Ozubulu, Nigeria, yesterday left at least 11 dead and scores wounded. is reporting on the attack which occurred during the 6:00 a.m. Mass when a gunman entered the church and shot an elderly man at close range. Eyewitnesses say that after killing the man, he opened fire on other worshipers while those parishioners who tried to flee were shot by gunmen waiting outside in an SUV.

According to AllAfrica, the first man shot was named Pa Ikegwuonu, who is the father of Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu, a businessman from Amakwa, who built and donated the church to Nnewi Diocese. Some believe that the gunmen were looking for Aloysius in relation to a business deal.

A survivor of the shooting, Stephen Ohamadike, told the press that the gunmen entered the church around 6.45am as they were about to begin prayer of the faithful.

“Those of us who were to say the prayers of the faithful had just assembled at the altar and I had Number 2 which meant that I was to say the prayer for Nigeria. Suddenly, I saw someone who was putting on a cap shooting indiscriminately inside the church.

“There was pandemonium and in the midst of the confusion, I just lay down on the floor. The officiating priest and the Mass servers quickly left the altar and the Mass came to an abrupt end.

“I counted 11 dead people and many were wounded. I used the vehicle belonging to Pa Ikegwuonu to take him and his wife and others to Evans Hospital where the doctors advised us to go to the teaching hospital. I used the car to convey many other people to the hospital before I came back to Amakwa.”

The parish priest, Father Jude Onwuaso, was not injured in the attack.

Several other parishioners, who sustained bullet wounds were being treated at local hospitals.

Governor Willie Obiano, who visited both the church and the hospital where the wounded are being treated, said he believes this was a case between two feuding people rather than a terrorist attack. 

“It is tragic that these two people had to bring their quarrel abroad to the village and to the church where innocent people had to be killed and injured. We are not going to relax until those who perpetrated this heinous crime are apprehended. That I can assure you.

“It was so bad that the gunmen went round the church to ascertain that the car belonging to the person they were after was there before they entered the church and started shooting, not knowing that it was his parents that came in the car,” the Governor said.

“I don’t want churches in this state to become apprehensive because of this incident because it is an isolated case.”

Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Garba Baba Umar, said, yesterday, that the International Police, Interpol, would be fully involved in efforts to trace the gunmen that invaded the Catholic Church at Ozubulu.

“We strongly suspect that the killing is related to a drug cartel,” Umar said. “Whatever the problem, they should have sorted themselves out there instead of coming to Anambra to wreak havoc. We will certainly involve Interpol in cracking this case and we have already swung into action.”

The Catholic Diocese of Nnewi, Anambra, described Sunday’s attack on worshippers as regrettable.

“It is regrettable that our people are more and more losing a sense of what is sacred. What on earth would make people open fire on innocent unarmed worshippers including children and women on a Sunday morning?

“We condemn this ungodly act in its totality; we pray Almighty God to console the families affected and assure them that our hearts are with them as we pray for the quick recovery of the wounded.

“For the entire parishioners, we call on them not to be discouraged in their usual practice of faith. It is when the forces of darkness attempt to overshadow goodness that the light of God shines even brighter than ever just as it happened on Easter Sunday.”

Let us keep all those affected by this tragedy in our prayers.

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