The suicide bomber who killed eight Catholic worshippers in Kaduna on Sunday drove into the church as worshippers knelt praying and the priest was serving the Holy Communion, eyewitnesses and survivors said.
The bombing, which happened at the St. Ritas Catholic Church, Ungwan Yero, Malali, Kaduna State, also left 100 injured. However, seven persons were reportedly killed in the reprisals that followed the blast.
A victim, Jacinta Oko, said, “We just heard the loud sound of the bomb blast when we were preparing to take Holy Communion. Before I knew what was happening, I found myself on the ground. I can say that so many people died because it affected the side where the choir members were sitting.”
A 30-year-old mother of four, Veronica Johnson, who also survived the bombing, confirmed that they were in the middle of the service when the suicide bomber hit the church. Johnson, spoke at the bedside of her two children-victims at the St. Gerard Catholic Hospital.
She said, “We were in the church, and it was during the consecration when everybody was kneeling down and praying. All of a sudden, we heard the deafening sound of the bomb.
“The bomb went off near where the choristers were sitting. So many people died, and so many people were injured. I saw some people lying down flat within the church premises.
“All of my four children were in the church when the thing happened, but my husband was not in the church. They all sustained injuries. One is just four months old.”
Another survivor, Ishaku James, said when the suicide bomber attempted to enter the church, he was prevented and he (bomber) reversed and rammed into the church through the fence.
He said, “There are many dead and injured people who were taken to Garkuwa Hospital, Saint Gerald Catholic Hospital, Army 44 Reference Hospital and Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital.
“The suicide bomber used a Honda CRV SUV. The church is called Saint Rita’s Catholic Church, Ungwan Yero, Malali. The bomb blast happened at about 8.30am when the Parish Priest was blessing the sacrament.
“Even if there were security men, they couldn’t have stopped the bomber because he came driving with a force and crashed through the fence of the church, and not through the gate of the church. The car used by the bomber got burnt, and the body of the bomber was left dangling on the wall of the church.
“So many people died in the church as the bomber crashed through the wall and hit the area where the choristers were. It means that many of them must have been badly affected.”
Children who were in the Sunday school class were also affected. The fate of the Parish Priest Rev. Father Bonny Baza, who reportedly sustained a serious injury to his face, was not known as at press time on Sunday. His Honda SUV, with Kaduna State number plate AE979ZKW, which was damaged by the impact of the bomb explosion, was later seen parked at the St. Gerald Hospital.
The National Emergency Management Agency confirmed the number of deaths in the suicide attack as eight as at 1.45pm on Sunday.
The NEMA Public Relations Officer, Yushau Shuaib, told one of our correspondents in Abuja that over 100 people had been confirmed injured, adding however that the number was inconclusive. He said that the agency’s personnel in Kaduna and other stakeholders collaborated in the rescue efforts at the blast scene.
“After the explosion at the worship centre, NEMA rescuers in collaboration with other stakeholders have so far confirmed eight dead and over 100 people injured. This figure was arrived at 1.45pm after inspection,” Shuaib stated.
Dead and wounded
At the Garkuwan Hospital along Sultan Road, one person was confirmed brought-in-dead while the Barau Specialist Hospital had recorded about four deaths as at 4pm. Three bodies were also deposited at the 44 Army Reference Hospital, all in Kaduna metropolis.
Archbishop of the Kaduna Catholic Diocese, Bishop Mathew Man’oso Ndagoso, who was at the St. Gerard Catholic Hospital, enjoined Christian youths, especially Catholics, to shun violence. He urged them not to embark on reprisals. He noted with sadness that children were mostly affected in the attack.
But the reports that came in after the attacks showed that the youths did not heed the priest’s counsel. Eyewitness claimed that there were reprisals by youths believed to be Christians after the attack. Eyewitnesses also claimed that six persons, including two okada riders, were killed during the reprisals.
An AFP correspondent reported that he witnessed a man being burnt alive in the reprisal by a mob believed to be Christians. The correspondent also reported claims of clashes between some Christians and Muslims.
Although there were reports of a partial curfew imposed on the area as a result of the attack and the reprisals, this could not be confirmed as press time.
The state Commissioner of Police, Olufemi Addenaike, who was at the scene of the incident, appealed for calm. He said security operatives were on top of the situation.
He added that men of the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force had been deployed in various locations in the Kaduna metropolis to maintain law and order.
“I cannot confirm the number of casualties as most of them, including the remains of the bomber, have been taken to various health centres in the metropolis for attention,” he said.