2011 Christmas: Bloodiest Christmas Ever With Over 25 Reported Dead
Photos of Saint Theresa Church, Mandalla in Suleja, Abuja … yesterday •25 dead in church bombing •Four killed in Yobe, Jos •Jonathan: perpetrators of violence will face justice
Dec 26, 2011 – 2011 Christmas: Bloodiest Christmas Ever With Over 25 Reported Dead
Madalla, a town near Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) made a bloody Christmas Day history yesterday. www.naijagists.com
With over 25 people killed, 13 cars burnt and nine apartments shattered by explosions at the frontage of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in the town.
Church members said the toll could be up to 30 but the National Emergency Management Agency put the casualty figure at 25.
Three families were burnt to death in their vehicles, after boarding to depart the church premises.
They were families of three, four and five. Four motorcyclists (a.k.a. Okada riders) were killed, their bikes becoming heaps of crushed metals.
The Christmas Day havoc was wreaked by a suspected Boko Haram suicide bomber, who was also feared dead.
But four suspected accomplices have been arrested.
The bomb threw a worshipper onto the roof of the next building to the church. He was dead.
Members of the church arrested two of the suspects. The other two were intercepted at Monkey Village within the precinct of Madalla.
The suspects were whisked away to Abuja by security agencies for interrogation.
The blast occurred at about 7.10am when members of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church were filing out after the early morning mass which started at about 6a.m.
Although the Catholic Church management took pre-emptive steps, with a three-man police team on guard, and two checkpoints, the suicide bomber pulled it off.
The three policemen, who were also victims of the blast, were identified by their shoes and the arms cache of their AK 47 rifles.
A member of the congregation, Mr. Joseph Chukwuemeka, said: “After the mass, the Reverend Father asked the congregation to file out for powder. As we were doing it, members were rushing out to return home to take care of their loved ones.
“As members were approaching the frontage of the church, we heard two deadly explosions and most people went blank.
“We ran helter-skelter here, first of all to save ourselves before we recovered for rescue operation.
“We decided to rush those wounded to Lucas Hospital and Maternity, Diamond Hospital in Mandalla; General Hospital, Suleija, Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital, State House Clinic and the National Hospital in Abuja.”
Another worshipper, simply identified as Chi Boy, who lost his sister, said: “Why will anybody be so callous as to kill innocent souls on Christmas Day. It is sad that my elder sister is dead in these explosions. How do you expect me to have faith in one Nigeria?
“Everybody dey hear me oh! I am from Izua Local Government Area in Enugu State. Most of those affected are Southerners. With what has happened, I need to go back to Biafra.
“Forget about it; we will revenge; my sister cannot die in vain.”
A security expert at the scene of the blast said: “There were two explosions. We are suspecting that the IEDs must have been planted at the entrance of the church a day before the incident.
“We discovered a hole at the entrance of the church with batteries and some fertilizers. But preliminary investigation will reveal the actual cause of the explosions.”
An eye witness, Joshua Ogeh, told reporters: “I am not a member of the church but the incident was gruesome. The casualty figures might have been underrated because those who died were more than 25.
“There was this case of one Mr. Dike, who was in a Sienna Bus with his three children and the vehicle, which was the first to be hit, got smothered within the twinkle of an eye.
“Two other families were trapped in their vehicles and got burnt completely.
“The explosions occurred twice and threw everyone off balance.
The roof of a nearby residential area with nine apartments was brought down. In fact, a man who was on his bed in one of the apartments, was thrown onto the floor of his room.
The Head of Operations of NEMA, Labaran Ahman, who spoke with reporters at the scene, said: “The incident happened adjacent to the church. So many people were affected.
“By our account, 25 people died, although we had many mutilated bodies. But out of the 25, we had 19 bodies intact and about six mutilated. But the casualty figure may increase.”
An official statement by the Head of Media and Public Relations of NEMA, Alhaji Yushau Shuaib, said: “There is an explosion at Madalla highway today which affected many vehicles and some human casualty.
The impact was felt at nearby structures, including a church. So far, NEMA has mobilised other stakeholders to the scene to evacuate the bodies and the injured.
The incident did not happen inside the church but outside on a road close by.
“While some of the victims were treated at the scene others were taken to hospitals.
“Please ignore any information that it was inside the church. It was never inside the Church. NEMA officials confirmed.”
Hear St Theresa Catholic Church Rev. Father Narrates of The Bomb Blast
The priest, Rev. Father, Isaac Achi, gave a long narration of the incident.
He said: “I am the Parish Priest of St Theresa’s Catholic, Church where this ugly incident took place. I left here as early as 6am to go for mass, the Eucharistic Celebration in one of our outstations.
“And at the close of the mass, I was informed that an ugly incident happened and probably they are suspecting it to be in my church. I rushed down.
“Meanwhile, as I was going, I left my Assistant, in the person of Father Christopher Barde Jatau, to officiate in the Eucharistic celebration.
“I came in only to discover that the whole place has become a carnival of people coming to see the ugly issue that happened.
“And as you can see, this ugly situation happened probably when the mass was about to close; it was not when people were coming in.
“The people probably left earlier. Personally, I am suspecting them to be those who are still traveling because we used to have early mass on a day like this so that people can come and have the mass before they can continue with their journey. But they came only for them to meet the end of their lives just at the entrance of the church.
“When I returned to meet my Assistant, he was nowhere to be found. Later, I was made to understand that he took some people to hospitals and I waited for him. On his arrival, he told me how the thing happened and how he felt. Definitely, as a human being, it is not easy.
“I felt this issue is becoming so alarming, with churches now the targets. And coming to meet people who have come to pray and ask for God’s blessing for their dear country, I stand to say ‘no’ to such a thing and even a repeat of it.
“You can see so many families gone; the whole households gone. Look at the two vehicles parked in front there (pointing). The first one had five people, the one following it had a family of three and this one at the back (now directly in front of the church) as a result of the explosions, had a family of four.
“I know that the Catholic members were the ones affected. These were Christians who came to pray, especially on this day that we celebrate nativity and the death of Jesus Christ.
“Also, cyclists (Okada riders) who came for their daily bread were victims. And probably some passers-by.
“So, this is all I can say, but I still want to call on the Federal Government to address this issue of security. We need to do something and not to allow it to continue. And all those engaging themselves in doing such havoc should please repent. They should stop it for the good of Nigeria.
“We want to be one, we must still remain one. So, if God is on our side, no man can be against us. We know we shall survive.”
Asked if he suspected any group or person behind the bombings, Achi said: “I am not suspecting anybody. If I suspect anybody that means I know where they are. I don’t know of anybody. So, I am not suspecting anybody.
“Yes, we have a police checkpoint in the front, here but how it happened surprised me. Or is somebody staying with us in Mandalla that got up to wreak the havoc? It is something that I cannot explain. Only God, who really knows how this thing started, can tell us.”
On the exact casualty figure, the Reverend Father said he could not give any, until a census had been conducted.
He added: “If at this point I talk of one person, two persons, 10 people or 50 people, I should be a liar. It is too sudden for me to know the number of people that were affected.
“I have to take a census of my parishioners; I have to go house-to-house and I have to call those living around that side to check their neighbourhood and then they should be able to tell me who is missing and that can give the correct figure of those that were affected.”