By BosNewsLife Africa Service with additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Paul Jongas in Nigeria and Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Suspected Islamic militants opened fire at an evangelical church in central Nigeria killing at least 19 people before Bible study began and, in a separate attack, shot and killed a colleague of a Nigerian evangelist and BosNewsLife stringer, several sources confirmed early Wednesday, August 8.
Local Christians and the military recalled a chaotic, blood-soaked scene at the Deeper Life evangelical church in Otite, a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of the city of Okene, 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
Jacob Edi, spokesperson for the governor of Kogi State where late Tuesday’s attack took place said women and children were also among the victims.
“Two women are confirmed to have been among the people that died. We don’t know the casualty figures of children yet but a lot of children were wounded,” he told the Voice of America (VOA) network.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which means ‘Western Education is a Sin,’ claimed previous attacks on churches as part of its self-declared attempt to create a state based on Shariah, or Muslim, law.
Seperately, Evangelist Ali Samari, 57, was killed late Tuesday, August 8, after he returned from work, said Paul Jongas, himself an evangelist who also reports for BosNewsLife from the region.
“My fellow evangelist Ali Samari of Good News Church was killed at his resident house in Mafoni [neighborhood] in in Maiduguri metropolis” in the country’s north-eastern Borno State, he told BosNewsLife.
Two gunmen were involved in the violence, local police and residents said.
The violence has added to concerns over spreading religious violence in Nigeria, which is roughly divided between a Muslim-dominated north and a Christian-majority south.
Boko Haram says it wants to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria and does not recognize the Nigerian government or the constitution.
While it is not yet known who carried out Monday’s attack, spokesperson Edi said the incident has people worried that violence common in other parts of Nigeria is now arriving in Kogi, the site of the Bible study attack.
“This is the first time we are having this major attack on a church in Kogi State. Kogi State is a very peaceful state,” he said. “So that is why we are worried that this thing is creeping into this state.”
There were already reports of revenge attacks Wednesday, August 8, as gunmen killed three people in an attack on a mosque in the Nigerian town of Okene, hours after gunfire killed people at the church there, according to police.
Nigeria’s government is under pressure to step up security.