Christmas tragedy: Gunmen kill 12, raze 20 homes

Boko Haram militants Twelve people, including a pastor and a deacon, were killed in attacks by gunmen on churches on Christmas Eve in Yobe and Borno states.

After the killing of Pastor Yohana Sini, 50, and five other church members in the early hours of Tuesday, the gunmen set ablaze the church and about 20 other homes in the area.

The attack on the Yobe church during a Christmas Eve service, led to the killing of the pastor and five worshippers. The church was also set on fire.

Worshippers were attacked at the First Baptist Church in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. A deacon and five church members were killed.

Details of the Maiduguri attack remained sketchy as at press time yesterday.

The incidents dented the massive security cordon woven around the country to prevent killings during the celebration. Besides, it brought back the sad memory of the Christmas Day bombings in Madala, Niger State, last year, in which many died.

Pope Benedict XVI decried attacks on churches in Nigeria in his homily at the St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican, yesterday.

The gunmen in the Yobe attack, according to an eye witness, Garba Degubin Audu, killed Pastor Sini and Daniel Edi, by slitting their throats, while four other residents were also shot dead in their heads and chests before their wives and children about 1.45a.m.

Speaking on the casualties of the attacks, Audu said: “We were woken up and terrified with the sporadic gunshots and multiple explosions at this Church at about 1a.m., when the gunmen set ablaze 21 houses in the village in their threehour attacks and killings in Biri village.

“They also killed our pastor, Mallam Yohana Sini in the presence of his wife and children by slitting his throat at about 1.36a.m. of that tragic night.”

“A group of gunmen came into the village at midnight and went straight to the church… they opened fire on them, killing the pastor and five worshippers. They then set fire to the church,” said Usman Mansir, resident of Firi village, near Potiskum, the economic capital of Yobe State.

Police spokesman in Yobe Adamu Salihu, yesterday confirmed the attack on Firi Village.

He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that unknown gunmen had attacked the village early Tuesday.

He said there was no bomb explosion but gun attack with some casualties.

“We have received report on the attack but there are no details yet.

“There may be casualties but no accurate figure yet; we are still awaiting the details from our men in Potiskum Division,” he said.

There were reports that the COCIN Church in the village was also burnt down by the assailants, but this could not be confirmed.

Spokesman of the The Joint Task Force in Yobe Lt. Lazarus Eli said: “Five persons lost their lives and four others sustained injuries during the attack. One suspect was arrested in connection with the attack”.

Damaturu the state capital remained calm without any tension.

Normal church services were held in the metropolis with intensive security check carried out on cars and worshippers.

Most of the clergy men at their Christmas sermons preached the love and joy of the birth of Christ to come upon the country.

Rev. Fr. Allen of the St. mary’s Catholic Church Damaturu prayed for peace to return to the country.

He urged Nigerians to forgive one another and allow the love of Christ to envelop the nation.

In Kano, some gunmen yesterday injured the Dawakin Tofa Local Government Council Interim management officer, Alhaji Ahmed Kambai Ismaila. They killed his driver.

The incident, according to eyewitnesses, happened at about 9:30 am at Sallari quarters of Kano city. It was gathered that the gunmen, who trailed Ismaila, opened fire on him when they got close to his vehicle. The bullet missed the target but hit the driver, who died instantly.

Kano police spokesman Majia Magaji said the area has been condoned off as investigation continues.

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