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Drone footage of St. Francis Church after the attack. Credit: ICC

Drone footage of St. Francis Church after the attack. Photo credit: ICC

By ICC Nigeria Staffer

06/15/2022 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) – No one could attend church after terrorists set off explosives at St. Francis Catholic Church in the Nigerian town of Owo, Ondo State on June 5. The attack showed an unusual amount of planning and coordination as multiple gunmen inside and outside the church shot parishioners before escaping in a getaway car. The getaway car was eventually found, but the attackers had since transferred to other vehicles.

Unfortunately, the attack on St. Francis Church was not the only one that week. In fact, more than 100 Christians were killed that week in Nigeria.

Locals spoke to ICC seven days after 48 Igbo Christians were killed by Fulani terrorists at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, which is just 34 kilometers from the state capital Akure.

“It was time to close with a prayer at noon when the attackers arrived at the church,” an eyewitness and church member told ICC. “The parish priest said, ‘go in peace.” We were about to answer when the first gunshot killed a fifteen-year-old boy at the church gate.”

An ICC staffer who visited the church shortly after the attack saw blood splashed on the ground around the whole of the church but no worshippers.

“We are still mourning,” another parishioner told ICC. He said he lost his father and mother during the attack. He said he saw two people with guns but was not sure if they were police or soldiers.

“The attack came as a surprise to us because the attackers were within the congregation,” an eyewitness told ICC. He said the attackers are all of Fulani origin, though authorities have yet to identify the attackers. “Fulani militants are who attacked the church,” he added. “I lost four of my family members,” he said, “and a total of forty-eight of my tribesmen were killed.”

The Chairman of the Christian Association of Owo County told ICC that Fulani militants are the ones attacking villages in Owo, saying that they are all over the local forests, destroying farms and raping women. He claimed that more than 100 Christians were killed in the last attack, though the government says the number stands at 38. The federal government has said that Islamic State West Africa Province is responsible for attacking the church.

Away from Owo, more Fulani militants killed 32 Christians in an Evangelical Church Winning All church in Kajuru, Kaduna State. After the attack, the church members could not attend church due to the trauma. Multiple eyewitnesses and community leaders have testified that the attackers shot from a helicopter, killing worshippers fleeing a church service.

ICC will soon visit the community for details. If confirmed, the attackers’ use of a helicopter to conduct the attack represents a significant jump in sophistication and complexity—attackers usually prefer to arrive and leave on inconspicuous motorcycles and have not shot from helicopters in the past.

In the Plateau State, which neighbors Kaduna State, two Christian students were killed after the Sunday service. Locals told ICC that the Fulani militants visited the school hostel at night and killed two male students.

On June 12, another 11 Christians were killed in Benue State’s Igama community in the Okpokwu Local Government Area. “Nine people were killed,” said the Amina Audu local government council chairman. Locals confirmed this account to ICC.

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