At least 16 people, including a pastor, have been killed in a gun attack on a church in central Nigeria.
A group of gunmen stormed Deeper Life Church in Otite, in the Okene region of Kogi state, during an evening service on Monday 6 August. They blocked the exits and opened fire on the trapped worshippers. Many people were wounded, while others may have fled into the bush.
No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but the militant Islamist group Boko Haram has mounted scores of raids on churches in North and central Nigeria in recent months. A number of its members are reported to come from Kogi state.
Kogi forms part of Nigeria‘s Middle Belt, in which Christians and Muslims live in roughly equal numbers. It is further south than most areas previously affected by Boko Haram’s brutal campaign, but this year it has witnessed several violent incidents.
On 15 July a car bomb exploded near Living Faith Church in Okene where hundreds of people had gathered for a service. On that occasion no-one was hurt. The security forces also prevented a suspected suicide bomber from detonating explosives at another church.
Earlier this year Boko Haram said that it had attacked a jail in Kogi and freed 119 inmates, while the authorities raided a supposed bomb-making factory in Okene and killed at least nine alleged members of the group.
Boko Haram has killed hundreds of people this year in pursuit of its goal of an Islamic state in the North of Nigeria. It has targeted Christians in particular, whom it has designated its “enemies“, though members of the security forces and others have also been attacked.
The group’s attacks seem to be spreading across Nigeria, and their extension towards the predominantly Christian South is a further disturbing development for the country’s churches.
Source: Barnabas Aid