Nigerian authorities have blamed the terrorist group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) for an attack on a church in the country’s southwest that killed at least 40 people.
Francis Catholic Church in Owo was the first to be linked to ISWAP in Nigeria’s southwest, raising fears of an outbreak of terrorism in the country.
Nigerian Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola spoke to reporters in Abuja on Thursday, shortly after the National Security Council meeting. He said officials had monitored the situation for several days and “by all indications, they are zeroing in on the Islamic State of West African Province.”
Aregbesola warned Nigerians to be vigilant but said the attack had no ethno-religious links. He also expressed concern over the recent killings in southwestern Sokoto state and Abuja over allegations of blasphemy.
The church attack was the first time ISWAP, which has carried out several attacks in the north-east and north-west parts of the country, was blamed for the attack in the south-west.
The area was not one of the areas officials were worried about until last week. Now, there are concerns that terrorists are expanding their territories to new areas.
But Beacon security analyst Kabir Adamu said there could be multiple reasons for ISWAP to execute the attack.
“There are many factors,” Adamu said. “Number one is terrorism, number two is political and then number three, this may be a message sent to the governor,” who has tried to crack down on marijuana growers. “We were told that Owo is one of the major states where marijuana is produced. A neighboring state, Kogi State, has seen such attacks, and it is possible that those groups broke into Ondo. be.”
Ondo state officials said the death toll from Sunday’s attack had risen to at least 40, while 87 others were wounded. He said some survivors have been discharged from the hospital.
At the end of the service, armed men detonated explosives and opened fire at St. Francis Catholic Church in Ovo. Five days later, the street in front of the church is quieter than usual. People congregate around the church, conversing in small groups, hoping to get the latest information about the attack.
The resident priest declined to comment on the situation, saying it was affecting his mental health.
A youth leader in Owo, who identified himself as Comrade Olkaposan, said local elders were trying to stop the youth from carrying out retaliatory attacks.
“We feel sad,” he said. “There has been a lot of vengeance in the community since last Sunday, but given the fact that [King] The Kabiasi community has been so diplomatic in all, appealing to the people to remain calm, “believing that he will do what is politically, traditionally and culturally justified.”
In another incident, officials in Nigeria’s northwestern Kaduna state said gunmen killed 32 people and destroyed dozens of homes in Wednesday’s attack.
Nigeria is witnessing a wave of terrorist attacks and kidnappings a year before the presidential election, and crime is sure to be a major issue in the campaign. President Muhammadu Buhari, who vowed to focus on security when he was first elected in 2015, has been constitutionally barred from seeking a second term.