The Federal Government has linked the killing of 40 worshippers during the Thanksgiving Service St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State on June 5 to the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP).
Some terrorists attacked the church with Improvised Explosive Devises (IEDs) during the service, killing 40 parishioners and leaving 61 others severely injured.
A survivor said the assailants operated for about 30 minutes.
The attack bore the traits of ISWAP, the government said yesterday after the National Security Council meeting, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja,
Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola, who briefed State House reporters in the company of Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Alkali Usman, said security agencies had been directed to go after the perpetrators of the act and bring them to justice.
According to the minister, the motive of the terror group was trigger ethno-religious war by pitching Nigerians against one another.
Noting that the group’s imprints had been established in the attack, Aregbesola said no arrest had been made.
He dismissed any ethnic agenda in the attack and urged Nigerians to unite and defeat the terrorists.
The minister said: “The National Security Council has just risen from its meeting today, which reviewed, very critically, all aspects of security situation in the country and came up with conclusions, commending the efforts of the military and other security agencies in mitigating the insurgency, particularly in the Northeast, where the fundamentalists there have been weakened, degraded and equally in the Northwest, where the bandits are equally weakened, and the Northcentral, where we’re engaged with pockets of bandits.
“The Council is quite concerned about the violent attack in Owo, Ondo State, and have been able to locate the perpetrators of that horrendous attack. From all indications, we are zeroing in on ISWAP, the Islamic State for West Africa.
“It is not an ethno-religious thing, the animals in ISWAP wanting attention and recognition are suspected to have launched that attack. We have directed all the agencies concerned to go after them and bring them to justice.”
The minister also stated that the Council showed concern about killings in the name of blasphemy and has directed the security agencies to go after perpetrators of both incidents that occurred in Sokoto State and Abuja recently.
He said: “We are equally concerned about the spate of attacks in the name of blasphemy. The police have been directed to mobilise, identify and preempt all those involved in the blasphemy attacks in two areas of the country, namely Sokoto and Abuja, of recent. The assurance is that we are committed to maintaining law and order and providing adequate security for Nigerian citizens.
“The President wants us to assure Nigerians that his administration is committed to providing adequate security and ensuring the maintenance of law and order, so that Nigerians will be able to go about their businesses, particularly farmers, who will want to go to their farms without any fear of attack or molestation.”
Responding to the recent kidnap and release of the Methodist Church Prelate, His Eminence, Samuel Kanu-Uche, the IG Usman said no arrest had been made, but pointed out that the matter is still being investigated.
The IG said: “For the issue of the kidnapping of the Methodist Church Prelate, no arrest has been made in terms of suspects, but we are still on it, arrest doesn’t have to come immediately. The case is still under investigation. The case is open and we are still looking for the suspects.
“We have leads, we have some issues that we are still following through how the ransom was collected and how the negotiations were done. We have information to that effect and we’re looking at getting into the real aspect of getting the suspects arrested.
“As for the issue of helicopter attack, the allegations are there, the assertions are there. We have not been able to say there is any helicopter attack on innocent citizens, like you have suggested but most of the times these assertions are made and up till now we’ve not been able to see or we’ve not been able to identify any helicopter that is flying and killing people unnecessarily.
“But there are instances where our own helicopters, security forces helicopters, that are flying, but we don’t have that allegation of innocent people being killed, except where in some instances in the past, where the military helicopters had, maybe in one way or the other, missed target or misdirected target and so forth.
“But that issue has not been an issue of discussion in the security meeting. We are still looking into the allegation and we are still looking into the assertions. If there are any leads to follow, we’ll do that.”