20180425

Heartless Gunmen Kill 2 Priests, 14 Worshippers In Benue

It was another bloody day in Benue State yesterday. Gunmen, suspected to be herdsmen, killed two Catholic priests and 14 others in two attacks.

In the first attack, they invaded St. Ignatius Quasi Parish, Ukpor Mbalon, Gwer Local Government Area, at dawn during a mass, shooting dead the priests and 11 parishioners.

The heartless gunmen killed three others later.

Police Commissioner Fatai Owoseni said the gunmen “attacked worshippers around 5 a.m. during morning Mass. Other victims were killed during a burial ceremony later in the day.”

He described the attacks as “unfortunate” and vowed to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Owoseni said that preliminary investigation revealed that the herdsmen had stayed around the area for sometime before carrying out the attacks. The commissioner said more policemen had been deployed in the area to forestall further attacks.

The Nation reports that the attackers sacked the village, setting ablaze 35 houses.

The Catholic Diocese of Makurdi gave the names of its slain priests as Rev. Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha of St Ignatius Quasi Parish, Ukpor.

A statement by its Director of Communications, Rev. Fr. Moses Iorapuu, said that the attacks were perpetrated by herdsmen who stormed Mbalom and killed the two priests during the morning mass.

The diocese expressed regrets at what it described as the nonchalant attitude of the security agencies in containing the killings.

It said the herdsmen burnt down houses, destroyed crops and killed people.

The church urged the authorities to stop the killings in the Benue valley.

Iorapuu said the Diocese had been providing food and relief materials to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) since the beginning of the violence in the state and wondered why it could be a target of attacks.

“The attacks on the priests are attacks on everything that we ever stood for and believed in,” he added.

Rev. Fr. Mbachie and Igyor who were at the Benue State Police Command headquarters after conveying the priests’ bodies to the mortuary, said the attackers escaped unchallenged and there was no security man to confront them. Worshippers fled the scene for their dear lives.

It was learnt that when youthsin Makurdi, the state capital, saw the body of one of the slain priests being brought to St Theresa’s Hospital Mortuary without its head, they got angry and took to the streets in protest.

The protest forced traders to shut down the popular Wurukum market. Banks and other business premises were hurriedly shut. Parents withdrew their children from schools.

The popular Katsina Ala Street, Igyor Chia Ayu Road and Makurdi – Gboko was deserted as residents trekked many kilometres to their destinations.

Fr. Iyorapuu wondered why despite the heavy presence of the Police, the Navy, Army and Air Force in Makurdi and Benue State, the killings had continued unabated sine the beginning of the year.

Governor Samuel Ortom has cut short his vacation in China. He is on his way back home.

Chief Press Secretary to the Governor Terver Akase said the governor would return to Makurdi “any moment from now because of the security challenge."