Nigeria church attack: 'We were able to recover 16 bodies,' police say

Two priests were among at least 18 people killed in a dawn attack on a church in central Nigeria, police said on Tuesday.

Around 30 suspected herdsmen attacked Mbalom community in the volatile region killing the worshippers and the two priests, said Benue state police commissioner Fatai Owoseni in the state capital of Makurdi.

"They attacked the venue of a burial ceremony and also attacked the church where the two reverend fathers were holding mass," said Owoseni.

"We were able to recover 16 bodies from the scene of the attack and those of the two priests."

Worshippers were gathered for the daily 05:30 service at St Ignatius Catholic church when they heard gunshots, said Mbalom resident Terhemen Angor to AFP.

"People started scampering and wailing," said Angor, saying that scores were "gunned down in cold blood while many sustained injuries including bullet wounds."

Bloody battle for resources

"After attacking the church, the invaders descended on the community and razed over 60 houses," he said.

"The community is on fire and deserted, people are fleeing to neighbouring villages hoping to find a safe haven for their families."

The Catholic Diocese of Makurdi confirmed the death of priests Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha in a statement condemning the violence.

Central Nigeria is in the grip of a security crisis as nomadic herders and sedentary farmers fight over land in an increasingly bloody battle for resources.

The conflict is now more deadly than the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency that has ravaged Nigeria's northeast and is becoming a key issue in the upcoming 2019 presidential polls.

Benue state lies in Nigeria's so-called Middle Belt that separates the predominantly Muslim north from the largely Christian south.

It has long been a hotbed of ethnic, sectarian and religious tension.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who is seeking a second term, has been under pressure to end the violence and ordered in military reinforcements.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are your thoughts on the possibility of having permanent Stage 2 or 3 load shedding?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
I'll take that over constant schedule changes
13% - 549 votes
Why are we normalising Eskom’s mess?
72% - 3051 votes
I've already found alternative ways of powering my home/business
15% - 615 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.21
-0.1%
Rand - Pound
21.32
+0.1%
Rand - Euro
18.70
+0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
12.24
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.4%
Platinum
1,016.00
+1.2%
Palladium
1,617.34
-3.0%
Gold
1,929.54
+0.0%
Silver
23.58
-1.4%
Brent Crude
87.47
+1.5%
Top 40
74,766
+0.4%
All Share
80,791
+0.4%
Resource 10
77,871
-0.4%
Industrial 25
103,872
+0.7%
Financial 15
16,281
+0.6%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE