The Anambra state Police Command has said that it has arrested suspects involved in the early Sunday morning killing of worshippers at St. Philips Catholic Church in Ozubulu.
Spokesman of the command, Nkeiruka Nwode, confirmed this to TheCable on Monday.
While refusing to reveal the identities of the suspects, the spokesman said that the suspects were arrested on Monday.
“This is a very sensitive investigation so you people (journalists) have to help us,” she was quoted as saying.
“As soon as the investigation is concluded, we will let the public know. But as far as I’m concerned, it definitely has nothing to do with terrorists. It’s just a conflict between individuals.”
No fewer than 35 worshippers were killed scores injured.
It was learned that trouble started for worshippers who were in church for the 6:00am Mass, when at about 6:45am, the gunmen rode into the church in a Lexus SUV, as one of them entered the church and shot at close range an elderly man, later identified as Pa Ikegwuonu, while others remained in the vehicle outside.
An eye-witness told Vanguard that after killing the old man, the gunman opened fire on other worshippers, as those who tried to flee were cut down by the gunmen outside the church.
Pa Ikegwuonu is the father of Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu, a businessman from Amakwa, who built and donated the church to Nnewi Diocese, while his wife was shot on her right arm and still on admission at the teaching hospital.
It was gathered that the gunmen were looking for his son, Aloysius, who was said to have returned to the village on Saturday and left later in the day. According to a source, the gunmen had thought he was in the church and had wanted to deal decisively with him over a yet-to-be ascertained business deal. How it happened — Witness A survivor, Mr. Stephen Ohamadike, told Vanguard at the church premises that the gunmen entered the church around 6.45am as they were about to begin prayer of the faithful. He said: “Those of us who were to say the prayers of the faithful had just assembled at the altar and I had Number 2 which meant that I was to say the prayer for Nigeria.
Suddenly, I saw someone who was putting on a cap shooting indiscriminately inside the church. “There was pandemonium and in the midst of the confusion, I just lay down on the floor. The officiating priest and the Mass servers quickly left the altar and the Mass came to an abrupt end.
“I counted 11 dead people and many were wounded. I used the vehicle belonging to Pa Ikegwuonu to take him and his wife and others to Evans Hospital where the doctors advised us to go to the teaching hospital. I used the car to convey many other people to the hospital before I came back to Amakwa.”
The parish priest, Rev Father Jude Onwuaso, declined comment on the incident, saying the Bishop had directed that only the Diocesan Director of Communications should speak on the matter. Several other parishioners, who sustained bullet wounds were being treated at the hospital, with over 50 medical doctors from Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, NAUTH, and other private hospitals around Nnewi battling to save their lives at the Emergency Unit of the hospital.
Governor Willie Obiano, who visited both the church and the teaching hospital, described the incident as very worrisome, adding that preliminary investigations by the Police showed that it was a case between two people from the community who were resident abroad
He said: “It is tragic that these two people had to bring their quarrel abroad to the village and to the church where innocent people had to be killed and injured. We are not going to relax until those who perpetrated this heinous crime are apprehended.
That I can assure you. “It was so bad that the gunmen went round the church to ascertain that the car belonging to the person they were after was there before they entered the church and started shooting, not knowing that it was his parents that came in the car.
“I don’t want churches in this state to become apprehensive because of this incident because it is an isolated case.” The governor commended the doctors for their quick response to save lives, adding that but for their intervention, more lives would have been lost.
He promised that the state government would offset the bills of those being treated and assist in bearing the cost of the funeral of those who lost their lives.