Owo Church massacre likely carried out by ISWAP – FG




 

The Nigerian government Thursday said the fatal attack on a Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo state, was likely carried out by a terror group, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola said this while briefing journalists after the National Security Council meeting presided by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“The Council is quite concerned about the violent attack in Owo, Ondo State. We have been able to locate the imprints of the perpetrators of that attack and from all indications, we are zeroing in on the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP),” Aregbesola said.

Dozens of people were killed when gunmen attacked worshippers on Sunday at the St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo state.

At least 40 people are believed to have died in the attack with the lawmaker representing the area saying 70 people were killed.

Aregbesola said ISWAP’s aim is to pit Nigerians against each other by making the attack appear an ethno-religious war.

“It is not an ethno-religious thing. The ISWAP members wanting attention and recognition are suspected to have carried out that attack and we have directed all the agencies concerned to go after them and bring them to justice,” he said.

Blasphemy killings

He also said the Security Council was concerned about the killing of innocent people because of ‘blasphemy.’

At least two people have been killed by different mobs (in Sokoto and Abuja) for alleged blasphemy.

“We are equally concerned about the spate of attacks in the name of blasphemy. The police have been directed to mobilise, identify and apprehend all those involved in the blasphemy attacks in Sokoto and Abuja of recent,” he said.

He said the current administration would not relent in its effort to provide adequate security to citizens across the country.

“The assurance is that we are committed to maintaining law and order and providing adequate security for Nigerian citizens,” he said.

On Osun, Ekiti polls

The former Osun governor also spoke of the preparedness of security agencies for the forthcoming governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states.

“Appropriate preparation is put in place for the elections coming up in Ekiti State this month and Osun State next month by principally Nigeria Police and other security agencies, with the military at the background,” he said.

Also speaking, Inspector General of Police Usman Alkali said 10,000 additional police officers would be graduating next month and added to the existing police force.

Alkali said the police would be leading other security agencies to monitor the June 18 election in Ekiti state.

He said over 17,000 police officers had been mobilised to maintain law and order during the election.

The IGP also disclosed that over 500 crime suspects were arrested in the last two months.

“I informed the council that we have made arrest of over 584 suspects involved in high profile crimes; ranging from banditry, IPOB, book haram and terrorism in general,” he said.

He also said efforts were on to rescue victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack still in captivity.

 Kaduna

 Meanwhile, the Kaduna state government has confirmed that 32 people were killed in three villages of Dogon Noma, Ungwan Sarki and Ungwan Maikori in Kajuru local government area of the state Sunday, while debunking reports of bandits’ aerial attack.

Kaduna state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs Samuel Aruwan announced this in statement Thursday.

He said a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) helicopter was deployed to assist the villagers in engaging the bandits during the attack but the helicopter arrived the scene of the attack late, noting that the news of terrorists’ aerial attack on the villagers were all rumours.  

“The Kaduna state government received initial reports from security agencies that bandits attacked the villages of Dogon Noma, Ungwan Sarki and Ungwan Maikori in Kajuru local government area on Sunday. According to the reports, the bandits stormed the area in large numbers on motorcycles, and proceeded to raze several houses, as they attacked and killed locals. 

“Since the attack on Sunday, security agencies and traditional leaders in the locations have been updating the government on the development. As of the time of this report, 32 persons have been confirmed dead following the attack.

“The deceased are listed as follows: “Dogon Noma; Ahmadu Musa, Audu Dandaura, Akilu Laya David Wasika, Hajatu Buhari, Nashon Buhari, Iliya Yaki and Javan Mairabo.”

According to Aruwan, other dead victims are, “Jackson Adamu, Nasco Victor, Dutse Gwamna, Joshua Amadi, Gona Isah, Douglas Yakubu, Phineas Joel, Tanimu Umaru, Abody Iliya, Wanzami Halidu, Dogo Aweh, Sunday Shittu. Also killed are Rejoice Audu, Jedidiah Ayawa, Jinkai Pius, Rebecca Ayafa, Ishaya John, Audu Danladi, Jibo Sule, Yakubu Garba, Williams Danbaba.”

Aruwan added that Maikasa Kufana and Augustine Bahago were killed from Ungwan Sarki, while Mamiya Maikori was killed from Ungwan Maikori.

“While government mourned the gruesome killing and burning of houses in the attacked locations, a report was published suggesting that the victims of the attack were killed by terrorists using a helicopter. The Kaduna state government wishes to make a clarification based on reports received since Sunday. 

“The bandits attacked the first two locations and killed 31 citizens. They then headed into Ungwan Maikori, where they killed one person and burnt some houses. An Air Force helicopter (under Operation Whirl Punch) dispatched to the area, had earlier scanned the first two locations and sighted burnt houses and properties on fire. 

“The helicopter intercepted the bandits at the last location (Ungwan Maikori) and engaged them as they retreated, before the arrival of ground troops to the general area. It was the arrival of the air asset which deterred the bandits from further attacks on the citizens in the village, after the bandits had already killed one local and burnt several houses. The story that a helicopter provided air support to the bandits against the locals, is therefore an untrue account.  

“The government of Kaduna state having gone through all the facts, finds it regrettable that a section of media would circulate an unverified report, insensitive to its implications on national security, law and order. Eyewitnesses to the peddled report of a helicopter aiding bandits in the killing of innocent citizens are invited to present their accounts to the government backed by incontrovertible facts. 

“The military, police and other agencies working in the general area deserve commendation and motivation, rather than demoralizing allegations. In the last 72 hours, security forces have conducted vigorous operations in the same general area, and are on the trail of a wounded notable terrorist. Similarly, several kidnapped victims, including an expatriate kidnapped at a mining site, were rescued after a fierce engagement with bandits. 

“Governor Nasir el-Rufa’i, on receiving reports of the attack, expressed deep sadness and prayed for the repose of the victims’ souls. He also conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims,” Aruwan added.

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