On June 5th, 2022, a group of gunmen attacked a Catholic church in Ondo State and opened fire on worshippers. It’s the deadliest terror attack in Nigeria since terrorists attacked a train in Kaduna in March 2022.
How did it happen?
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, was the target of the gunmen. The attack started around noon while worshippers gathered for the celebration of Pentecost.
An eyewitness, Ugweze Victor, told journalists that the attack started with the gunmen throwing explosives inside the church as mass was coming to an end. The government has also confirmed that dynamite was used by the attackers. The gunmen then opened fire on worshippers who started running for safety.
How many are dead?
The casualty figures from the church attack vary depending on who you ask. Some media reports have claimed at least 28 people were killed, while others have put the figure at over 50 killed. The eyewitness, Ugweze Victor, also claimed around 100 people were killed.
Graphic images and videos posted online showed dozens of people, including children, were gunned down, but there’s been no official death toll released by the government almost 24 hours after the tragedy.
What about the injured?
Worshippers were also injured during the attack on the church. They were later transported to medical centres where they’re being treated for their injuries. Nigerians online have crowdsourced emergency blood donations for those in need.
Who’s responsible for the massacre?
No one has claimed responsibility for the massacre of worshippers in Ondo State. But Olayemi Adeyemi, a member of the Ondo House of Assembly, blamed herdsmen for the attack. The Ondo State government has implemented policies over the past year to discourage the open grazing of cattle. Adeyemi said the attack is a reprisal against such policies, but the government hasn’t named any specific suspects.
Some of the eyewitnesses interviewed by journalists also didn’t confirm if it was herdsmen responsible for the attack as widely shared online. Also, contrary to social media reports, none of the church’s priests was abducted.
What’s the government doing?
The governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, has promised that every available resource will be deployed to hunt down the attackers. The governor also called on the people of Ondo State to remain calm and vigilant. The governor said, “On this matter, don’t retaliate. We know what to do and you’ll hear it. The perpetrators will never escape. We’re after them. And I can assure you we’ll get them. I’m not boasting.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has also condemned the attack and charged emergency agencies to tend to the wounded. The president said, “No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome the light. Nigeria will eventually win.”
How can people help?
Some people have already donated blood for those in need. Others willing to donate blood can contact BOAT Foundation, a non-profit organisation that delivers blood.
People online have also offered to make cash donations for those affected by the tragedy. No donation links are active online yet.
It’s also helpful to verify information posted online before sharing them. A video claiming to show policemen arresting one of the attackers in Ondo has been found to be false. But the video has over 165,000 views and over 1,500 retweets.