More details have emerged on the attack at the St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Nigeria on Sunday, which left many people killed.
Owo is the hometown of the Governor of the State, Rotimi Akeredolu.
It was learnt that the incident happened immediately after the church ended its mass service.
According to eyewitnesses, the assailants attacked the church with guns and dynamite.
One of them noted that the attackers gained entry into the church through the fence and gate of the worship centre.
One of the eyewitnesses, who is a Reverend Father, Andrew Abayomi, said many worshippers were killed despite the security measures taken by the church.
“We were about to finish service. Immediately we asked people to leave, we began to hear the sound of gunshots and dynamite from different angles. We immediately asked people to run back inside the church and shut the door.
“We hid inside the church but some people had left when the attack happened. We locked ourselves in the church for about 20 minutes. When we heard that they had left, we opened the church and rushed victims to the hospital.”
A youth who witnessed the incident said an Ice Cream seller was the first victim of the attacker.
He explained that the attackers gained access to the church with dynamite but shot the worshippers with guns.
He said, “I heard the sound of gunshots. They (the attackers) first shot the Ice Cream seller. They later went into the church and started shooting. They used the dynamite to gain entrance into the church.
“It happened immediately the Father announced that ‘worship has ended, go home in peace’. No one was kidnapped. I drove the Father to hospital and brought him back.”
A resident of the area explained that the attackers laid an ambush for the worshippers.
He said, “It happened in the broad daylight. They didn’t even cover their faces. Is it a crime to go and worship God? Look at both the old and the young that have been killed. If it is because of the 2023 elections, they should tell us what they want.
When asked the number of the attackers, he said, “Who dares to count under heavy gunshots? They came in through the fence and gate. They laid an ambush and penetrated. They shot guns and used dynamite to enter.”
We were still evacuating corpses -Secretary Owo LG, Taye Adako
The Secretary of Owo Local Government, Taye Adako, said corpses were still being evacuated hours after the attack happened.
“I met many corpses here and we are still evacuating. It is something that saddens us. What we saw this morning is painful.
“Government won’t watch this happen like that. Many people have been killed. We have been evacuating corpses. Security operatives are here already. We appeal to people to be patient. Government is on top of the situation.
“We have never seen something like this before. They just attacked the church with guns and dynamite. Innocent lives are being killed, We will ensure justice.”
It’s an attack on Akeredolu – Youth leader
Chairman of the National Youths Council, Ondo State Chapter, Mattew Adewale, described the incident as a personal attack on the governor of the state.
He explained that this was the first time such an incident would occur in the area.
Adewale said, “This is my hometown. This is a slap on us. We have never seen this before in owo, a town where we have a king and a serving governor.
“We want the governor to see this as a personal attack. As youths, we are being forced to defend ourselves.
“Police came and started shooting after hours the incident happened. The police and civilians have to combat this together.
“The church was attacked but worshippers of both religions must stand up and fight this together. From what I heard, they said the attackers are Fulani. I saw more than 20 corpses when I came here and others have been taken away before I came.”
Assailants will be hunt down – Akeredolu
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State assured residents of the state that the government would hunt down assailants that attacked and killed worshippers of St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo on Sunday.
This is contained in a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Richard Olatunde, on Sunday in Akure.
“We are deeply saddened by the unprovoked attack and killing of innocent people of Owo, worshipping at the St. Francis Catholic Church, Owa-luwa Street, on Sunday.
“The vile and satanic attack is a calculated assault on the peace-loving people of Owo Kingdom, who have enjoyed relative peace over the years.
“It is a black Sunday in Owo. Our hearts are heavy. Our peace and tranquillity have been attacked by the enemies of the people. This is a personal loss, an attack on our dear state.
“I have spoken to the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ondo, Most Reverend Jude Arogundade, who is presently on his way to Owo.
“Similarly, I have had to cut short my party’s national assignment in Abuja and visit Owo immediately,” he stated.
According to the governor, this is an unexpected development.
“Nevertheless, We shall commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay.
“We shall never bow to the machinations of heartless elements in our resolves to rid our state of criminals,” he said.
The governor condoled with the people of Owo, especially the families of victims of the attack.
“I commiserate with my people in Owo, particularly families of the those who lost their lives to this ugly and unfortunate attack.
“I extend my condolences to Olowo of Owo, Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye as well as the Catholic Church,” he stated.
Akeredolu enjoined the people to be calm and sensitive, asking them not to engage in any activity that could complicate the crisis.
“I urge our people to remain calm and vigilant. Do not take laws into your hands.
” I have spoken to the heads of the security agencies. I have equally been assured that security operatives would be deployed to monitor and restore normalcy to Owo kingdom,” Akeredolu said