Nov 26, 2012

11 die as suicide bombers hit church in military base


TWO days after the military placed a ransom on the leader of the Boko Haram sect, suicide bombers struck yesterday at a church located inside an Armed Forces facility in Kaduna State.

Eleven people were killed and 30 others injured after twin explosions rocked St. Andrew Protestant Church inside the Command and Staff College, Jaji, which is 40 kilometres from Kaduna, the state capital.

The CSC Jaji is a high-level military institution. It also houses an infantry centre and school.

The service had just closed, but leaders were meeting over Sunday’s annual thanksgiving service when the suicide bombers struck. They beat the heavy security at the gate of the Cantonment.

The incident came barely one month after a similar attack on St Rita’s Catholic Church, Kaduna.

The military on Friday placed a N50 million ransom on Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. Boko Haram has not claimed responsibility for the Jaji attacks, which bore marks of its operations.

The Director of Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Bola Koleoso, put the figure of the dead at 11 and the injured, 30. But, unconfirmed reports said over 50 people may have been killed in the twin-explosion, which was believed to have also affected a senior officer.

Gen. Koleoso in a text message said: “There were twin suicide bombings today at the St. Andrew Military Protestant Church, Jaji Military Cantonment at 1205hrs and 1215hrs. A bus first ran into the church and exploded about five minutes after service while a Toyota Camry parked outside the church detonated 10 minutes later.

“Figures of casualties not yet clear, but the injured are receiving treatment at military hospitals both in Jaji and Kaduna. Investigation into the bombings has commenced and the area already cordoned off.”

When told that an estimated 50 people were killed in the explosions, he said 11 people died. It was gathered that even though the church had closed for the day, people rushed back when they heard the first explosion and gathered around the burning car, watching, when the second explosion occurred.

Sources said most of the victims died in the second attack.

The source, who was in tears said on the telephone that “many people were killed in the explosion. “I am not in a position to say how many people died, but all I can say is that the number of the dead is high because I saw many dead bodies. I think the people that died may be in the region of 40 0r 50. I cannot say precisely.”

Gen. Koleoso said the injured had been taken to the 44 Reference Hospital, the Nigeria Air Force Hospital in Kaduna and the Ahmadu Bello University Hospital in Zaria.

The army restricted movement into the Jaji facility shortly after even officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) were prevented from gaining access.

There was no claim of responsibility but Islamist sect Boko Haram, whose main targets are the security forces, has bombed several churches in the past in its fight to create an Islamic state in the country.

President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor condemned the frequent bombing of churches in the country and “institutional corruption”.

Pastor Oritsejafor spoke at the dedication of the newly completed church building by the Good Tidings Bible Church International in Abuja.

He expressed regret that the heathcare system in the country had failed while the standard of education was dwindling.

“How can people be bombing churches? How can people be stealing billions of naira meant for pensioners? Is it they don’t have the fear God?”

Pastor Oritsejafor, who wept during the sermon, described Boko Haram members as “wicked for perpetuating evil in the name of religion”.

The CAN President said: “Anybody that is not filled with the spirit of God will be filled with the spirit of evil.

“Boko Haram members are doing what they are doing because they are filled with evil spirit.”

He added: “How can a group of people be perpetuating evil, killing people, burning worship centres in the name of religion?”

Pastor Oritsejafor urged the government to do more for security. “If we all have the fear of God and His spirit in our lives, there will be no sectarian crisis. We must pray for Nigeria; we need God in our lives.

“Why can’t we have an international standard hospital in Nigeria where people from outside the country could come for treatment?

“Look at our educational system; the standard is falling at an alarming rate.’’