By Luka Binniyat, Henry Umoru & Emman Ovuakporie
KADUNA — For the second Sunday running, blood flowed again yesterday as 48 persons were killed in three separate coordinated bomb attacks on churches in Kaduna, Zaria and retaliatory attacks.
Meanwhile, a 24-hour curfew had been imposed in the state to prevent further attacks and retaliatory attacks. President Goodluck Jonathan in his response, expressed sadness over the attacks.
Senate President, David Mark and House of Representatives Speaker, Mr Aminu Tambuwal, have condemned the attacks and called for calm.
Acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, said that only 16 persons were killed in the attacks. Vanguard gathered that the first attack was at a Children Sunday School at ECWA Church, Wusasa, Zaria, which left the sunday school teacher, and 10 children dead. Four children playing outside the church were among the first victims of the blasts at the church.
A witness said that five men ran up to the church and hurled home-made bombs through its open door. They were allegedly chased down and reportedly beaten to death. Police could not confirm this.
At Christ the King Catholic Cathedral, Zaria, also attacked by a suicide bomber, 11 worshipers were killed, narrated a member of the church, who escaped through the window. Malachy Achu, a dentist, a member of the church, said those injured in the blast could not be less than 40.
In Kaduna, Shalom Church International, Trikania, Kaduna was hit by another suicide bomber, leaving about five worshippers dead and scores injured.
Among the dead at the church in Kaduna were three persons securing the Church’s gate, while two others were killed when the suicide bomber crashed his car through the gate of the church. A soldier was among the casualty.
Three killed in reprisal attacks
The attacks which took place at 9am, provoked Christian youths in Kaduna and its environs.
Mosques and property belonging to Hausa/Fulani Muslims were torched and reports said three Muslims were killed in the retaliatory attacks.
The state Police Commissioner, Mr Mohammed Jinjiri, when contacted, said: “Sorry, I cannot say anything to you now. We are still counting the casualties. I will speak to you later. Please bear with me. We are still going round, trying to bring things under control.”
In the Christian dominated Sabo area, thick dark smoke filled the air from goods believed to belong to Muslims which were either destroyed or vandalised.
No fewer than 500 Muslim traders in Sabo market trapped in the violence ran to a nearby army post for refuge. Some managed to move their herd of about 50 cows to safety at the army post.
An Air Force helicopter hovered over Kaduna, as police and military patrol vans sped through major streets of the town, warning trouble makers to stay off the streets.
Public Relations Officer of St. Gerald Catholic Hospital, Kaduna, Mr. Sunday Ali, who spoke to Vanguard on phone said on the casualties: “From what we have here, 22 corpses had been deposited. We are presently treating 71 people with various kinds of injuries. And more are being brought in. I don’t know if the dead or wounded are from the bombed church or from reprisal attacks. Our work here is to treat them. I will not be surprised if more victims are brought in later.” Time was 7.45pm.
A source at the 44 Army Referral Hospital, Kaduna, said no casualty had been brought to the hospital.
Reports from Zaria remained sketchy on the situation after the blast, but it was gathered that most of the injured were taken to Shika, Ahmadu Bello University, ABU Teaching Hospital, and St Luke Hospital, Wusasa, Zaria.
At press time, normalcy was being restored to the blasts areas after a 24-hour curfew was declared by state governor Patrick Yakowa.
Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Media, Mr. Reuben Buhari, in a statement said: “Governor Yakowa condemns in its entirety the unfortunate bombing of three churches in Wusasa in Zaria Local Government Area, Sabon Gari Local Government Area and Trikania, Chikun Local Government Area, Kaduna State.
“While regretting the unfortunate incident, I convey my deepest condolence and sympathy to all those affected in the bombing. In view of the incidents and the need to have complete normalcy and to forestall further break down of law and order, the state government has imposed a 24-hour curfew on the whole state.
“The curfew hours start with immediate effect until further notice. Government regrets the inconveniences this drastic measure will cause all and sundry. But the state government considers this to be necessary in order to avert further loss of lives and property in the state. The state government had directed the security agencies to enforce compliance,” he said.
Jonathan expresses sadness over Zaria, Kaduna blasts
Meanwhile, President Jonathan has expressed sadness over the multiple explosions that rocked churches in Kaduna and Zaria.
Jonathan expressed his sadness in Abuja at a special service to commemorate the 2012 Fathers’ Day.
When called upon to give his remarks, the visibly sad Jonathan said he received the news of the blasts in the course of the service and was really sad about the development.
“Particularly today (yesterday), I was quite thrilled about what was going on in the church and when I got the information that while we were here, there were explosions in Kaduna and since I don’t even know the casualty rate and what is happening; I have been quite sad and I didn’t even want to say something.
“But when the priest orders you, you must say something.”
He promised the Police will do everything possible to protect the innocent and bring the lawless to book.
He solicited the support and prayers of every Nigerian for the peace of the nation and for the success of his administration.
Bombing of Churches: Threat to National Unity— Mark
Senate President, David Mark, yesterday, described the incessant bombings of churches as a threat to the unity of Nigeria. He pleaded with victims of the attacks not to engage in reprisal attacks.
He called for measures to put an end to the carnage.
In a statement by his Special Adviser Media and Publicity, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, Mark said, “resorting to vengeance will demean your faith as the Lord has said vengeance is His. More so, reprisal attacks can only help the course of your attackers. I believe they want to ignite a religious war and threaten our national unity.
“Those who have turned places of worship as targets of bombings should know that they are fighting God and the Lord will surely at an appropriate time give His own judgment.”
Senator Mark who urged those perpetrating these attacks to have a rethink and accept the dialogue proposed by the Federal Government, however, reiterated that “ no matter the amount of anger in a man’s mind, killing another man cannot be a remedy. Such action can only aggravate the situation.”
Tambuwal calls for calm
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Aminu Tambuwal, has called for calm following the exacerbation of tension in Kaduna State occasioned by the bomb blasts in Zaria and Kaduna towns.
He said attacking innocent people, who know nothing about the blasts, in the name of reprisals, will worsen an already complicated situation.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal said the increasing number of attacks on places of worship, especially on Sundays, calls for greater caution on the part of the victims and adherents of other faiths.
He said despite the current precarious security situation in some areas in the country, Nigerians should not cave in to the whims and caprices of the perpetrators of such attacks.
“It is by remaining resolute and prayerful that we can see this difficult phase of our nationhood together,” he added.
IG confirms 16 dead
Acting IG, Mr Abubakar, said “ three separate incidents of explosions carried out by unknown bombers occurred in Kaduna State. The first incident took place at 8:35am at ECWA Church Wusasa, Zaria; the second incident at 8:45am at Christ the King Catholic Church Sabo-Gari, Zaria, while the third incident occurred at Shalom Church Kakuri, Kaduna at 9:30am.
“A total of 16 persons have so far been confirmed dead as a result of the explosions within the three churches. A breakdown of this figure shows that nine persons, including the suspected suicide bomber died at Christ the King Catholic Church, three persons at ECWA Church and four persons at Shalom Church.
“Some parts of the state recorded a momentary breakdown of law and order as angry youths took to the streets to protest the unfortunate attacks on the churches. The Police and other security agencies had, however, restored normalcy in the affected areas,” he added.