At least seven people including a pregnant woman were killed when a suicide car bomber struck the St. Finbarr’s Catholic Church in Jos, sparking reprisals in which 10 people were lynched by mobs in parts of the city.
The blast occurred at about 10.30 am at Rayfield when the church was having a fresh mass having concluded an earlier one.
A suicide bomber driving a Vectra car approached the gate but was stopped by church security men for a search.
Witnesses said when the Boy Scout volunteers at the gate prevented the man from driving in, there was an argument, followed by a blast from the car, killing the driver and four of the boys.
A pregnant woman believed to be within the church premises and an infant of about 8 months were also killed in the explosion.
The explosion tore down the entire ceiling of the church and shattered the glass windows of the church and buildings around it.
Spokesman for the Plateau Police command, ASP Samuel Dabai, told newsmen 10 people were killed in the attack while about 10 others sustained injuries and were being treated at a hospital in Jos.
NEMA North-central zonal spokesman Audu Yohanna confirmed the death of three people with four others injured.
Soon after the explosion, youths in the area attempted to burn a mosque at the Mai-Adiko area close to the church but were prevented by men of the STF who had by then arrived at the scene.
Two other youths were said to have been killed in the process of preventing reprisals.
But reports from around the city said reprisal attacks took place in which up to 10 people might have been killed.
“The situation is bad,” Plateau State health commissioner Sati Dakwat told Reuters. “Several were killed in the reprisal attacks, more than 10.”
Most of the people killed in the reprisals were thought to be operators of taxi bikes known as achaba.
Inusa Bala, a cola nut seller, told Daily Trust: “I saw the corpse of a water vendor who was beaten to death somewhere around charcoal market.”
Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in the state, Malam Muhammad Nura, told newsmen that two herdsmen were missing and another person was injured in the reprisals.
“Two of our herdsmen are missing following the reprisal attack within Mai Adiko and Bukuru towns after the bomb blast…. We don’t know whether they are still alive or dead,” he said.
Nura condemned the reprisals, saying innocent herdsmen were “always attacked whenever anything happened which they know nothing about.”
He urged security agencies to investigate the matter “for the interest of justice and fairness.”
But Police spokesman Dabai said there was no report of any reprisal attack. “The security agencies on ground have since calmed the situation after the blast,” he said.
Shortly after the explosion, heads of security agencies who came to the church were prevented from entering by angry youths.
Catholic Arch Bishop of Jos Diocese, Most Rev. Bishop Ignatius Kaigama, who was at the church shortly after the explosion, described the attack as a demonstration of evil.
“People are being robbed of their faith, but robbers of faith will not go unpunished and nothing can separate us from the love of God,” he said.
He, however, called for calm “not because we are cowards but because killing is irrational, beastly and criminal.”
Secretary to the Plateau State government Professor Shedrack Best described the bombing as barbaric and an act of evil.
President Jonathan yesterday condemned the bombing at the Jos church, and assured that the Federal Government “is doing everything possible to end the spate of mindless attacks and killings in parts of the country.”
A statement by Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said, “The President urges Nigerians not to despair or 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 because 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.”
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