Efe Wale (not real name), a congregant at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, has recounted how unidentified gunmen attacked worshippers at the church shortly after a service on Sunday.
In an interview with FIJ, Wale said that the gunmen carried out the cold-blooded killings in utter silence.
“We got to church around 8 am and mass started at 8:30. I attended the mass with my mother and father,” Wale said.
“At around past 12 in the afternoon, when the mass had already come to an end, the priest said the final prayer. After the priest’s benediction, we were singing the recessional hymn when we heard the first gunshot.
“The shooting started from outside the church compound. Then it got louder as they entered the church premises.”
The congregant told FIJ that the gunmen started shooting at any church member they could sight the moment they made it into the compound.
He added that bullets flew in different directions as people fell to the ground.
“The men at the main entrance tried to close the doors. They were saying ‘dem done come o’. I quickly went over to my mother as the shooting started. We laid stretched on the ground, under the pew,” Wale said.
“The bullets flew into the church from every direction. It was like a mass shooting with multiple gunmen. People died all around me; I still cannot believe I am alive. They shot at everyone; young and old. I saw the dead bodies of children.”
Wale said that he lost sense of time and was not sure of how long the shooting lasted.
“The shooters simply later stopped and left when they were satisfied with the level of assault they had meted out,” Wale said.
“We were still lying face down on the floor when they left. People stayed on the ground for a while after the shooting because we were not sure if they had indeed gone. When we eventually got up, so many members had been killed. A good number of people were also injured.
“No one saw the faces of shooters, so we can not even say who did this for sure. They did not speak a word, the shooters simply shot at us silently. When they were done, they left. They did not abduct anyone.”
Wale confirmed to FIJ that a police station is very close to the parish but no security official responded to the gunshots.
“The shooting lasted for a long time. My friends in different churches told me that they heard loud bangs from our direction. It is not possible that the police did not hear the gunshots or bangs from our church,” he said.
“Even when we came out and tried to help the injured out of the church, there were no security or emergency services around. People from town were our first responders.
“Everyone in Owo Town is now paranoid. We don’t feel safe at all. My parents are okay but the trauma we’ve been through today will not leave us in a long time.”
Wale told FIJ such killings had not occurred in the town in a long while. He however confirmed that kidnappers abducted a foreign engineer two weeks ago, killing his two escorts.
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