By Yusufu Aminu Idegu and Marie-Therese Peter
•22 hospitalised •Youths attack soldiers •Jonathan to Nigerians: don’t be discouraged
Jos, the crisis-prone capital of Plateau State, was in turbulence again yesterday.
Youths went on the rampage as soldiers shot sporadically to prevent an escalation of the violent protests that greeted the suicide bombing of a Catholic church.
Yesterday’s bombing of St. Finbarr’s Catholic Church in Reyfield, Jos was the second attack on a church in two weeks in the Tin City.
Seven parishioners, including an expectant woman, were among the 11 peaople confirmed dead in yesterday’s bombing; 22 were injured.
On February 26, a suicide bomber drove an explosive-laden car into the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN). Four people were killed.
President Goodluck Jonathan swiftly denounced the bombing. He urged Nigerians “not to despair or be discouraged”, in a statement by his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati.
Governor Jonah Jang, who visited the scene and the victims in the hospital, said “rather than crying and mourning, this is the time to pray to God to bring an end to these attacks”.
Dr Matawwal Bitrus, Medical Director, Plateau Specialist Hospital, Jos, confirmed that the hospital had received the corpses of six victims.
Another corpse was said to have been deposited at the mosque of Jos University Teaching Hospital.
The Chief Medical Director, Dr Ishaya Pam, said: “We received 15 casualties from the attack. One of the victims died while 14 sustained various degrees of injuries and are in critical conditions.
“Some sustained varying degrees of burns while three had gunshot wounds. But they are in stable condition and responding to treatment.”
The Nigerian Red Cross indicated that it had taken 22 people injured in the blast to various hospitals in Jos metropolis.
“For now, we have 22 injured at Jos University Teaching Hospital, Plateau Specialist Hospital and Air Force Military Hospital in Jos.
“Many of the injured are in critical conditions but they are stable and responding to treatment. But we also note that some of the injured were taken to different hospitals in the metropolis by different people.
“Those ones that were taken to these hospitals by several people mostly, relatives, we are not able to know their actual number for now,” Mr Manasseh Pampe, State Chairman of the Red Cross said.
The premises of the church was littered with pieces of flesh of the suicide bombers, who were believed to be two in the car that conveyed the bomb. The charred remains of the engine of the car used by the bombers was in front of the building. Its body torn into shreds.
Police spokesman Samuel Dabai said: “Yes; the explosion occurred at St. Finbarr’s Church, Rayfield and from initial reports available to me, there were 10 dead and ten injured. Six of them must have died at the scene of the attack”
Rev. Father Peter Umoren, the parish priest, spoke of another horrific Sunday in Jos.
He said: “I don’t know how to describe this; I’m short of words. We just commenced the 10 am Mass when the incident occurred. We finished the early Mass and those who attended it were on their way out of the church while those attending the 10am Mass were trooping in. I was right on the pulpit when we heard the heavy explosion. I did not know when I shouted ‘Jesus’. The church building almost collapsed on the congregation, but God saved us; the roof did not come down but the ceiling was shattered.”
The impact of the explosion damaged about 10 vehicles parked within the church premises. It also left the official residence of the Parish Priest, within the church compound, badly damaged. Glasses and ceilings were shattered. The interior of the church building was in ruins.
St. Finbarr’s Catholic Church is about 200 meters from the Plateau State Government House. It shares a fence with the Plateau Radio and Television Corporation.
An eye witness, Sebastine Adah, said: “The car driven by the suicide bombers forced itself through the main gate of the church and let off the bomb right in front of the church. The mystery in this particular attack is how the suicide bombers were able to get through all the military check points in Rayfield without being noticed. I’m afraid there is no security in Jos in spite of the state of emergency.
“There is more military presence in Rayfield, Jos, due to the presence of the Government House and the fact that many influential persons live in the area, which makes it unthinkable that such high scale attack could happen there.”
However, youths in the area vent their anger on the soldiers who rushed to the scene after the attack. This forced the soldiers to shoot sporadically to disperse the rampaging youths. About five youths were shot in the clash with soldiers. The youths set bonfires on the road to prevent the soldiers’ entrance. They claimed that the soldiers were nowhere to be found when the suicide bombers came in with the bomb.
One of the youths, Ezekiel Davou, said: “To hell with soldiers; we don’t need them. Where were they when the bombers came in? Why can’t the soldiers prevent attacks on the churches? Where is the state of emergency? The soldiers are our problems; we don’t need them anymore, we are tired of all these. We are attacking them because their coming here after the suicide attack is useless.”
A victim at the Plateau State Specialists Hospital, Dogo Danjuma, said: “I thank God mine is injury. Many have died. My worry now is what sort of security we have in Jos? There are soldiers at every check point and they stop and check vehicles coming in and out of Rayfield; why did the soldiers fail to see the explosives in the bombers’ car. There is a kind of conspiracy here. And they say Jos is under state of emergency, yet we are not safe; we are not safe to worship; why?
A National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) official said: “From the scene of the blast, our team picked three bodies to the mortuary. I’m not saying the death figure was not more than three, there could be more but our team picked three, and we are not the only agency involved in the rescue team. The Special Task Force (STF), the Civil Defence, the Red Cross were all involved. So, it’s difficult to confirm the casualty figure now, but by tomorrow when everything settles down, we can go round all the hospitals in the city to get the statistics of the dead and the injured.”
The Youth Wing of the Christain Association of Nigeria (CAN) called on the Federal Government to revisit the recent posting of military officers across the country. “We witnessed about seven months of peace in Plateau State, but as soon as the Federal Government made the general postings and a new commander of Hausa-Muslim extraction resumed in Jos, the attacks have resumed.”
The explosion set the ongoing National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp in disarray. Youth Corps members at the Zang Commercial Secondary School camp are fleeing. When The Nation visited the camp, many of the Youth Corps members especially those from the southern part of the country, were looking for means to flee the city.
One of the Youth Corps members, Alexander Mathew, said: “Our fear is deep because, each day, we see signs that we are not safe in this camp. A few days ago, 10 strange boys were arrested from our midst by security agencies. Those boys could be spies of Boko Haram and Boko Haram hates Corps members. We started this orientation barely two weeks ago and within two weeks, there have been two suicide bombings in Jos.”
Many parents and guardians with wards at the Jos Orientation Camp have made frantic calls to their wards to return home immediately. But the Plateau State co-ordinator of the NYSC, Mr. Maram Maful, called an assembly of the Youth Corps and pleaded with them not to leave. He assured them of adequate security.
While Youth Corps members from the southern part of the country insist on deserting the camp, their colleagues from the North were helping the commandant to convince the others.
Some of the Youth Corps members escaped the camp in plain clothes and were seen at the Plateau Ridders Park booking to leave the state.
Jang expressed shock when he visited the scene of the blast and urged residents to remain calm.
Jang said, “Rather than crying and mourning, this is the time to pray to God to bring an end to these attacks. All that is expected of residents is to be more security conscious and be extra-vigilant and cooperate with the security agencies who have the capacity to investigate the sources of these attacks.”
After addressing sympathisers at the church premises in Rayfield, the governor, accompanied by security chiefs, visited victims at the Plateau Airforce Hospital, Plateau Specialist Hospital and the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) where most of the victims are receiving treatment.
The Muslim Community in Jos condoled with the Christians.
The Chief Imam of the Jos Central Mosque, Sheikh Daud Balarabe, in a statement, described the attack as “unfortunate, considering that we have been enjoying peaceful co-existence in the state in recent times”.
The Muslim community urged youths not to take laws into their hands by embarking on reprisal attacks but work with the security agencies to restore peace to the state.
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