Panic as explosion rocks Sapele mosque

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By Emma Amaize, South Regional Editor, Godwin Oghre & SusanEdeh

*One injured *It’s not bomb – Police *Blast targeted at worshippers – Chief Imam *Gunmen attack Bauchi police station

The people of Sapele, the center of the Nigerian timber industry, in Sapele Local Government Area of Delta State, were jolted from sleep at about 5.30 a.m., yesterday, by a thunderous explosion, which occurred at the main mosque in the town, leaving a Moslem critically injured and parts of the mosque shattered.

The blast, which heavily shook the ground around the mosque, caused a heavy thick smoke. It devastated the ceiling, roof and interior of the religious house and also generated a lot of tension in the port city with people running helter-skelter. The incident occurred on a day gunmen attacked a police station and a local government secretariat in Bauchi State.

Blast: Part of the mosque in Sapele rocked by explosion yesterday. Photo by Godwin Oghre

The injured person in the Sapele explosion, simply identified as Tanko, was rushed to the nearby Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Oghara, but was reportedly denied treatment on the suspicion that he could be a Boko Haram member.

He was later rushed to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, Benin City, Edo State, where he was placed on intensive treatment.

See more photos here

Delta State Police Command and the State Security Service, SSS quickly stepped into the matter, to douse any uprising. The state police spokesman, Charles Muka, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, ASP, told Sunday Vanguard that the explosion was not caused by a bomb, but resulted from a fire in the mosque.

A source, nevertheless, disagreed with the police spokesman, saying, “A bomb was thrown into the mosque between 5.00 and 5.30 a.m., a time the Muslims were inside doing their early morning prayers, and it was by the grace of Allah that only one person was injured.

“You can imagine what we will be saying now if up 100 persons praying in the mosque were massacred”.

An eyewitness disclosed that there was stampede as soon as the explosion occurred, causing the worshippers to run helter-skelter.

His words, “A rocket landed on the mosque from nowhere, destroying every object inside and injuring Tanko, one of the Muslims”.

The leader of Hausa community in Sapele, Alhaji Sahabi Umar, did not initially allow newsmen to enter the mosque, saying he was waiting for the state commissioner of police, who  had earlier sent a message that he was coming to visit the place.

 

‘We know bombers’

But some faithful forced the door of the mosque open and, speaking on condition of anonymity, one of them said, “The blast was caused by two members of Boko Haram who want the worshippers to implement the full practice of Boko Haram”.

He said the two men, who also worship in the mosque, bombed the mosque because “they were displeased with the new Iman, who introduced Hausa, English and Arabic language as mode of worship, rather than only Arabic language that has been in used in the mosque”.

On his part, the Chief Imam of the mosque, Alhaji Mohammed Yusuf, told Sunday Vanguard that the blast was targeted at worshippers.

He, however, denied that it was associated with the Boko Haram sect and did not confirm whether there was any disagreement among the worshippers on the mode and language of worship.

Police spokesman, Muka, said the police were investigating the incident with a view to unraveling the perpetrators.

He said it was an insignificant incident that should not be overblown as it was not a bomb that was thrown in the mosque.

His words, “If it is a bomb, we will see the particles, we have combed the place, we found nothing to show it is a bomb”.

A senior police officer, who corroborated the claim of the spokesman, said, “We are handling the matter, it is not a very serious incident and it is not Boko Haram. If Boko Haram could bomb police headquarters in Abuja, what is Sapele mosque and I think you know that Boko Haram does not target mosque, so they are not the ones”.

 

Gunmen raid police station, council

Meanwhile, some gunmen,yesterday, attacked the Kafin Madaki Police Station and Ganjuwa Local Government secretariat in Bauchi State. The attack on the council was said to be a bid to snatch the salaries of local government workers in the area. The police station attack preceded the raid on the council.

The state police commissioner, Mr Ikechukwu Aduba, confirmed the incident. “There was an attempt to snatch the workers salaries kept in the council’s secretariat by some gunmen, but we foiled the attempt, because the police and the military repelled their attack.

’’We sent reinforcements from Bauchi and additional mobile policemen were sent from Ningi police station to face the gunmen, as we did not want to leave anything to chance.

’’There was exchange of fire but the hoodlums fled,” Aduba said.

The police boss said they recovered two vehicles, N600, 000 and other valuables from the hoodlums, adding that the police were investigating the incident.

Sunday Vanguard gathered from residents of the area that the gunmen stormed the council secretariat around midnight and headed straight to the finance department where the workers’ salaries were kept.

They were alleged to have fired several shots into the local government secretariat which attracted a joint army/police patrol teams into the secretariat before the attackers fled.

 

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