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Lone Gunman Shoots 11 dead in Anambra Church

In what started like an action-packed movie, a gunman dressed in black, stormed a church in Anambra on Sunday, opening fire on worshipers. There was commotion. By the time the gunman left, no fewer than 11 worshipers lay dead.

That was the scene yesterday at St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Amakwa-Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State. The gunman came during the early morning mass.

Many were injured during the incident, which Governor Willie Obiano described as “sacrilegious”.

An eyewitness, who narrated how the attack occurred, said the priest, Rev. Fr. Jude Onwuaso, was unhurt. The witness, who said he was part of those who evacuated the victims, said the gunman went into the church, identified Chief Akunwafor Ikegwuonwu, a parishioner, and shot him dead. He then went on the rampage, shooting indiscriminately at worshippers.

Commissioner of Police Garba Baba Umar said 11 persons were killed and 18 injured. He said some people in the community had been invited for interrogation.

It was leant that the gunman may have struck on the instruction of one of two suspected drug barons from the community who live in South Africa. One of them, who was the gunman’s target, is believed to have built the Catholic Church about two years ago.

There are two accounts of the incident. One is that a gunman committed the crime. The other claimed there were six gunmen.

A source from the community, who pleaded for anonymity, revealed that the gunmen visited the home of one of the drug barons, perhaps to assassinate him, but discovered that he had travelled.

This, according to the source, might have made them to visit the Catholic Church near his house.

The father of the suspected drug baron was killed along with others in the church

The police commissioner said preliminary investigation revealed that the attack was carried out by people from the area and not by Boko Haram as being speculated in some quarters.

He said: “From our findings, it is very clear that the person who carried out the attack must be an indigene of the area.

“We gathered that worshippers for 6 o’clock Sunday mass at St. Philip Ozobulu were in the service when gunmen dressed in black attire, covering their faces with fez caps, entered the church and moved straight to a particular direction and opened fire.

“The men, after shooting at their targeted victim, still went on a shooting spree, killing and wounding other worshippers.’’

It was learnt that the attackers were speaking Igbo when firing at the worshippers.

Umar said though no arrest had been made, the police were working on the information that the attack followed a quarrel between two Ozubulu men living abroad.

The commissioner of police said it was wrong for the perpetrators of the act to take their quarrel into the church, saying “such conduct shows the people behind the act do not fear God’’.

The police have launched a manhunt for suspects.

Dismisssing the rumour that the attack was carried out by Boko Haram elements, Umar urged residents to go about their businesses without fear.

Obiano visited the church and the Nnamdi Azikwe University Teaching Hospital, NAUTH, Nnewi where the injured were being treated.

He also confirmed that the shooting followed a clash of two brothers based abroad. He described it as a “communal feud”.

Obiano promised to offset the medical bills of the injured and assist in the funeral for those killed.

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