Abuja (Agenzia Fides)- Two priests and at least 19 faithful were killed in the parish of St Agnatius Ukpor-Mbalom in the village of Mbalom, in Gwer East Local Government Area, Benue State, which is part of the so-called Middle Belt in central Nigeria which divides the mainly Muslim north from the south where majority of the people are Christian.
The massacre happened at dawn on Tuesday 24 April. According to surviving eyewitness, the attack happened during the 5.50 daily morning Mass, always well attended. The service had only just begun and people were still arriving. A funeral was scheduled to follow the Mass. Suddenly gun shots were heard as armed men broke into the church in the panic people tried to escape. However 19 people, including Rev. Joseph Gor and Rev. Felix Tyolaha, who were celebrating the Mass, were killed in cold blood. Many more were wounded. After attacking the church the criminals torched the village destroying at least 60 homes and hay lofts. The people fled to the nearby villages in search of safety.
“We confirm the deaths of Rev. Joseph Gor and Rev. Felix Tyolaha in the mortal attack by shepherd/jihadists in the village of Mbalom, parish of St Agnatius Ukpor-Mbalom” says a statement signed by Rev.Moses Iorapuu, Social Communications officer for the diocese of Makurdi. The priest said other massacres had occurred in other villages but “it seems the police knew nothing of attacks in other villages in Benue State”.
The Nigerian press reports that 35 more people were killed in an attack on the same day, 24 April, in the village of Tse Umenger, in Mbadwem Council Ward of Guma LGA, Benue State. Local eyewitnesses say the massacres were committed by at least 50 armed herdsmen who attacked and destroyed the village.
These latest massacres in villages in Benue State increased tension in the state capital, Makurdi, where groups of youths took to the streets torching vehicle tires. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 25/4/2018)