Senate President David Mark
By John Shiklam, Senator Iroegbu, Dele Ogbodo, Ibrahim Shuaibu, Aisha Wakaso and Segun Awofadeji
Suicide bombers Sunday launched yet another attack on a church in Kaduna State, killing no fewer than 11 persons.
The bombers, suspected to be members of Boko Haram, who had on October 28, attacked St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Ungwan Yero, Kaduna, in the latest twin attacks, breached the security of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, near Kaduna, to reach their target, St. Andrew’s Military Protestant Church, located in the expansive premises of the military facility.
Thirty others were confirmed injured in the incident.
It was also another bloody Sunday in Kano and Bauchi States where five persons, including a family of three, were killed by gunmen suspected to be members of the Islamic sect.
The attacks on the military church elicited swift condemnations from Senate President David Mark, House of Representatives Speaker, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, and Northern governors.
Although the military put the casualty figure in Sunday’s attacks on the Jaji church at 11, other sources said the death toll could be as high as 50.
According to a source, the incident occurred at about noon when the church service was over and the congregation had dispersed, leaving only the elders of the church who were deliberating on issues in the church.
The first bomb-laden car was said to have exploded without any casualty, resulting in many people gathering to see the wreckage when the second suicide bomber arrived and detonated his bomb-laden car.
“Many people were killed. I am not in a position to say how many people are dead, but they are many. I saw many dead bodies. I think the people that died may be in the region of 40 or 50. I cannot say precisely. Even some of those who are injured, I am not very sure they will survive it.
“This is sheer wickedness. How can any human being plan this kind of wickedness? We are now feeling very insecure in the barracks. Our security system here has been very porous.
“When people come and are stopped from entering, they will call their relations and people they know who are allowed inside. This is a major embarrassment for us,” the source said.
Those injured were taken to the Military Hospital within the barracks in Jaji, while others were rushed to the 44 Army Referral Hospital in Kaduna for treatment.
Authorities of the AFCSC confirmed that 11 people were killed in the twin suicide bombings while 30 others were injured.
The Public Relations Officer of the AFCSC, Col. Mohammed Dole, told THISDAY on the phone that those killed included worshippers and commercial motorcyclists who were around the church to pick up passengers.
Dole, who did not give a further breakdown of casualties, added that eight vehicles and about six motorcycles were destroyed, saying that no student of the college was killed or injured.
According to him, those injured were taken to the 44 Army Referral Hospital, NAF Base Hospital in Kaduna and ABU Teaching Hospital, Shika, near Zaria.
Dole said the bombers struck after the church service with the first bomb-laden car exploding inside the church premises, while the second bomb-laden car exploded outside.
“Two suicide bombers exploded their bombs around 12.00 hours today (Sunday) using two cars at St. Andrew’s Military Protestant Church after the church service.
“One exploded inside the church premises and the second one exploded outside the church,” he said.
His narration of the incident was also confirmed in a statement Sunday by the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Brig-Gen. Mobolaji Koleosho.
He said the suicide bombers, who had laden a bus and a Toyota Camry car with bombs, detonated their bombs 10 minutes apart.
He said: “There were twin suicide bombings today (Sunday) at the St. Andrew’s Military Protestant Church, Jaji Military Cantonment at 1205 hours and 1215 hours. A bus first ran into the church and exploded about five minutes after service, while a Toyota Camry parked outside the church detonated 10 minutes later.
“Figures of casualties: 11 dead and about 30 injured. The injured are receiving treatment at military hospitals both in Jaji and Kaduna. Investigation into the bombings has commenced.”
Responding to inquiries, the Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Mr. Femi Adenaike, told THISDAY that the police were not in a position to give details of what happened, as only the military authorities could do so.
Rescue agencies such as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), which rushed to Jaji to assist the victims, were turned back by the military authorities.
An official of SEMA in Kaduna, who pleaded anonymity, told THISDAY that NEMA and SEMA were turned back at the gate by the military authorities.
In condemning the attacks, Mark called for truce from the bombers and their sponsors.
He said in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Paul Mumeh, that they should accept dialogue instead of resorting to violence.
“We have more to gain by being our brother’s keeper,” he said as he also urged security operatives to step up their efforts in curtailing the security challenge across the country.
Tambuwal, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, urged security agencies not to despair over the attacks on their facilities.
He said no religion condones attacks on innocent worshippers and urged all those behind the bombings to stop forthwith.
While grieving with the families of those killed in the incident, Tambuwal also prayed for quick recovery for the injured.
On their part, Northern governors, under the aegis of the Northern State Governors’ Forum (NSGF), described the bomb blasts in Jaji as cruel and wicked.
Commiserating with the military over the incident, the chairman of the forum, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, who is also the governor of Niger State, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Danladi Ndayebo, prayed that God would give their families and friends the fortitude to bear the loss.
The statement urged the military not to be discouraged by the dastardly act, stressing that the nation would forever remain grateful to the military and other security agencies for the successes recorded so far in the war against terror.
Also Sunday, suspected Boko Haram members in Kano wiped out a family of three, comprising the father, mother and their child, while they were going to church.
The Kano State Police Command said they were killed at Kwanar Masalaci in Naibawa Quarters of the Kano metropolis.
Sunday’s attack, which happened at about 9.30 am, was the fifth in a series within one month in the Naibawa environs.
The neighbourhood is fast becoming notorious for serial killings.
According to an eyewitness, the victims who were commuting in a red Golf car, had just driven out of their compound when two gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed them instantly.
Immediately after the shooting, the gunmen escaped from the scene, but operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF), backed with an armoured tank, arrived at the scene and cordoned off the area.
The JTF agents also combed the area and the adjoining streets for possible clues to track down the fleeing suspects.
Police spokesman in the state, Musa Magaji Majia, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), said the gunmen escaped before the police and other security agents arrived at the scene, adding that the bodies of the deceased had been evacuated to a mortuary for autopsy.
To prevent further attacks Sunday on Christians and churches, a combined team of security agents, backed by armoured personnel carriers, was drafted to strategic places leading to churches in Kano.
In addition, a helicopter hovered over the city as part of security measures to ensure the safety of worshippers.
Two other persons were also killed at the weekend in Bauchi while undetonated explosives were discovered in the residence of a retired police officer in Gudum Sayawa, a suburb of Bauchi metropolis.
A source said unknown gunmen, numbering about 15, stormed the area at 8 pm, and started shooting sporadically.
Stray bullets were said to have killed a Mr. Iliya Duba and Mrs. Alheri Ayuba, a mother of three, who had just returned from a visit to a neighbour.
It was learnt that the gunmen fled immediately after the attack to avoid arrest by the local vigilante group, which tried to pursue them.
An eyewitness added that the retired police officer was the target of the attack, as the gunmen had planted explosives on the roof of his house but could not detonate them.
Residents were said to have invited the police, which despatched the anti-bomb squad unit to evacuate the explosives.
All attempts to confirm the incident from the Bauchi State Police Commissioner, Ladan Mohammed, were futile as he did not pick repeated calls to his phone.
In Sokoto State, unidentified gunmen were also said to have attacked a divisional police station in Isa Local Government Area.
An eyewitness said Sunday that he saw several gunmen moving towards the police station firing at it ceaselessly. There was no confirmation of retaliation by the police or the casualty figures.