-Two soldiers, others die as gunmen open fire at Ramadan Lecture -Survivors relive agony
OKENE, the Kogi State town where unknown gunmen killed 16 Christian worshippers on Monday, had little time to mourn yesterday – no thanks to another raid in which four people were killed.
The death toll of the Monday night Deeper Life Church attack climbed up to 20.
As the town was struggling to recover from the hangover of the attack, some gunmen hit the Central Mosque, shooting dead four people, including two soldiers.
Governor Idris Wada declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Okene Local Government Area and ordered a restriction of commercial motorcycles within Lokoja, the state capital.
The gunmen, according to witnesses, wore a white regalia. They drove in a Hilux van to the Central Mosque near the Okene Local Government Secretariat at about 4pm during a Ramadan lecture and opened fire .
A source said a soldier, who was at the mosque, gunned down two of the invaders before he was hit. He died.
The gunmen were said to have escaped before security agents arrived at the scene.
But in a different account, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted Kogi Police spokesman Simon Ile as saying that three men opened fire on the Army patrol team on duty around the area, killing two soldiers instantly.
All the major roads in the town were immediately taken over by security agents, who were ready to repel more attacks.
Police Commissioner Muhammed Katsina confirmed the incident.
The governor, who condemned terrorism, urged residents to go about their normal businesses as security agents are on the alert.
The Deeper Life attack death toll rose to 20, following the death of four more victims. Fifteen people died on the spot after the gunmen bearing automatic rifles invaded the Bible Study Class, shooting indiscriminately. One died in the hospital.
Residents were restless as rumours of a planted bomb hit the town. But it turned out to be a hoax.
Wada, wearing a bullet proof vest, visited the church and survivors in the hospital. He rained curses on the attackers and promised to track them down.
There was thick, red blood splattered on the floor of the church. Shoes and other belongings lay scattered all over the place.
One of the survivors of the attack, Mr. Lawal Saliu, recounted the grim moment when the worshippers came under fire.
Saliu, who suffered gun shot wounds, spoke from his hospital bed.
He said: “They came into the church in their numbers and started shooting at us.”
He said the gunmen ensured that all the exits of the church were blocked – apparently to prevent people from escaping.
“Some of them were hanging outside the church gate and were shooting at people trying to use the gate as exit route. There was confusion. I have never seen such a situation.
“They shot at every angle of the church, even under the bench.
“I remember seeing one of shooters heading towards me while I lay helplessly on the ground with bullet wound on my leg.
“I pretended as if I was dead. They were going round to confirm if we were all dead. I saw some people running out and falling down and I eventually blacked out.”
Federal College of Education, Okene spokesman Peter Obansa said the Dean of Student Affairs, Mrs C.O. Omeiza, was critically injured in the attack.
Obansa said a “Middle Level Officer” with the school died in the shooting.
He said the school authorities were still finding out if any of its students was a victim.
“As a community around the school, vicinity, we know that some students live there. But we are yet to get a report that any student fell victim,” Obansa said.
Wada, at the church, promised to find those behind the killings. He said the blood of the children among those killed will be upon their (the killers’) head.
At the Okene General Hospital, on a visit to the injured, Wada promised that the government would pay all their medical bills.
The governor urged the Ohinoyi of Ebira land, Alhaji Dr. Ado Ibrahim, to wake up and arrest the situation.
He told the monarch at the palace that he was displeased with what is happening in his domain. He urged him to use his experience to check the ugly security situation.
The governor described the area’s crime rate as alarming and noted that if the peace in the area is not secured, no meaningful development will take place.
Security was tight in the state yesterday. Security agents were at strategic locations in Lokoja and Okene, patrolling streets with Amoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and vans.
There was tension in Lokoja, the state capital over the rumour of planted bombs in some strategic areas of the town.
At Lokongoma, security agent were drafted to the spot where a bomb was said to have been planted.
The situation brought economic activities to a halt. Banks, workers, taxi drivers and commercial motorcyclist all closed down.