Nigeria church attack: What, where and why?

According to reports from the local area, armed individuals assaulted a Catholic place of worship in Nigeria while a religious ceremony was taking place on Sunday, resulting in the tragic loss of life of at least 50 individuals, including both females and minors.

Here is the information we currently have:

  • Individuals carrying explosive devices forcibly invaded a Catholic church and initiated gunfire in the southern part of Nigeria, approximately at 11:30 am [10:30GMT] on Sunday.
  • According to the authorities, while explosives were detonated, four individuals shot directly into the church, and shooting from outside the church started during a service.
  • Physicians, volunteers, and officials stated that the number of fatalities was at least 50. Numerous youngsters were among the deceased.
  • Following the assault, corpses were transported to two medical facilities within the locality, according to an unidentified physician. Furthermore, he emphasized the requirement for blood contributions to attend to the wounded.
  • Videos, reportedly recorded at the location of the attack, showed church attendees lying in pools of blood as people nearby expressed their distress.
  • The identity of the attacker was not immediately evident.
  • Where did the incident occur?

  • The town of Owo, located in the Ondo State of Nigeria, witnessed an act of violence on Sunday, Pentecost, as worshippers gathered at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. Owo is situated approximately 215 miles (345 kilometers) east of Lagos.
  • INTERACTIVE_NIGERIA_CHURCH_ATTACK_JUNE6_2022
    (Al Jazeera)

    What is the most recent update on the field?

  • Authorities have instructed the immediate dispatch of armed and specialized law enforcement officials to the region in order to reinstate tranquility and strengthen the entire community.
  • The assailants are being apprehended as endeavors are being escalated, while an “explosive ordnance disposal unit” has been dispatched to the location, stated Police in Ondo State.
  • Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state has advised individuals not to resort to vigilante justice.
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    What was the cause of it?

  • So far, no organization has taken responsibility for the assault.
  • Ondo, which is regarded as one of the calmest states in Nigeria, is facing security challenges in certain areas. In the state, there has been a growingly aggressive dispute involving farmers and nomadic herders.
  • According to Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, who is reporting from Abuja, armed factions known as the bandits have been perpetrating comparable assaults in the northern and central regions of Nigeria for an extended period.
  • Idris stated, “In this region, there have been several attacks between local farmers and these cattle herders, but we know that these herders own their own vigilantes who chase out the cattle. However, it is not clear whether these armed groups have infiltrated the southwest and carried out the attack.”
  • The escalating conflict between local farmers and herders often results in the destruction of crops. This is frequently exacerbated by the increasing urbanization in Nigeria, which has forced herders onto farmlands due to the compounded scarcity of pastoral land, despite the conservation of forests and national parks as restricted areas.
  • There have also been unverified reports of groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) setting up sleeper cells in central parts of Nigeria, near the border with Southwest Africa.
  • Boko Haram targeted penitentiaries in the central Kogi state, which shares a border with the capital, Abuja, in both 2012 and 2014, encompassing Ondo and nine additional states.
  • According to Nigerian newspaper The Cable on Sunday, an explosion took place in Kogi during a cultural festival last week, resulting in the deaths of two individuals. ISWAP has claimed responsibility for the incident.
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    What occurs subsequently?

  • According to a statement by Akeredolu, a gathering of Amotekun commanders, a regional vigilante supported by the state, has been organized for collaborative operations in the southwest.
  • They have also requested that flags in Ondo state be lowered to half-mast for a duration of seven days, commencing on Monday.
  • In order to investigate the underlying reasons, security forces have ordered a forensic investigation into the attack after reading a statement that calls for the immediate arrest of the assailants, as everyone is fully prepared to prevent any similar attack in any area of the state.
  • IGANGAN PROVOCATIVE ONSLAUGHT ONE TOO MANY.

    …we have directed the Commanders of the South West Security Network, Amotekun, to convoke a joint security meeting of all Commanders in the South West with a view to commencing joint operations in the region immediately. pic.twitter.com/Kgv0oy1yiL

    — Arakunrin Akeredolu (@RotimiAkeredolu) June 6, 2021

    What have been the responses thus far?

  • As per a statement from his spokesperson, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed that “only malevolent beings from the underworld could have conceived and executed such despicable deed.” Buhari, who was elected after pledging to put an end to Nigeria’s long-lasting security crisis, affirmed that “regardless of anything, this nation will never surrender to malevolent and malicious individuals, and obscurity will never overpower brightness. Nigeria will ultimately emerge victorious.”
  • “No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome light. Nigeria will eventually win,” the President says.

    — Presidency Nigeria (@NGRPresident) June 5, 2022

  • Governor Akeredolu of Ondo, who visited the scene of the attack and met with the injured people at the hospital, emphasized that the tragic event on Sunday should not be described as a “massacre.”
  • I want to express my condolences to those who lost their dear ones to this gruesome murder. This is a great massacre.

    Our people in Ondo state will not let down their guard. This will not happen again. I have urged the Heads of Security agencies to take all necessary steps. pic.twitter.com/OpDqsZ7Zfg

    — Arakunrin Akeredolu (@RotimiAkeredolu) June 5, 2022

  • The pope said in a statement issued by the Vatican press office, “He may send his spirit to console them and entrusts both the country and the victims to the Lord, affected painfully at a time of celebration.” Pope Francis responded to the news of the attack on the church in Ondo, Nigeria, during the celebration of Pentecost by offering prayers for the victims, including the children and many worshippers who tragically lost their lives.
  • Pope Francis expresses his condolences for the victims of a terror attack on a Catholic Church in Nigeria’s southwestern Ondo State which killed over 50 people, including several children.https://t.co/ilhlJ5UYvU

    — Vatican News (@VaticanNews) June 5, 2022

  • Governor Akeredolu of Ondo state described Sunday’s incident as a “vile attack” and appealed to the security forces to apprehend the assailants.
  • Reverend Augustine Ikwu, the spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Nigeria, expressed, “We seek solace in God to comfort the families of those who lost their lives.” During the Holy Mass at St Francis Catholic Church, unidentified gunmen carried out a devastating attack, resulting in numerous casualties and injuries, as well as a violation of the Church. This tragic incident is truly disheartening.
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