Gunmen on Christmas Eve attacked a church in Peri, Yobe State, killing at least five people, including the pastor, and setting the building on fire, residents and police confirmed yesterday.
No fewer than 20 houses were also allegedly burnt down in the attack.
Peri, near Potiskum, is the economic capital of Yobe State.
“A group of gunmen came into the village at midnight and went straight to the church. They opened fire on them (the worshippers) and then set fire to the church,” said Usman Mansir, a resident of the village, according to Aljazeera online.
A senior police official in Yobe State also confirmed the incident to the AFP news agency, but declined to be named.
Yobe State Commissioner of Police Sanusi Rufa’i said the attack was “a security issue” and refused to comment further.
It was not clear who was behind the attack, but fighters belonging to the Boko Haram sect have carried out several attacks in the state and environs, which borders Maiduguri state where the activities of the group is most pronounced.
Reacting to the killing on the telephone yesterday, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, described the incident as a bestial act against a people exercising their right to worship.
He said, “It is highly disturbing and very barbaric. It is archaic. It is totally against God and anything that has to with Him. You wonder how people will go through this extent in the name of God.
“Let us not continue to deny that there are jihadists, extremists and Islamists in this country; they are here. Let us agree that it is time for us to take certain steps to bring this madness to an end.”
He urged the worshippers in the area not to succumb to evil perpetrators by escaping from their ancestral homes.
He added, “Let me again say that I have high respect and regard for my Muslim friends and brothers. I’m not against Muslims. We need their help. We have been saying it and we will continue to say it: not only do we appeal to them to condemn it, we are asking that they must help us take this message to the grassroots.
“We (Christians) are not their enemies. The clerics that preach in the mosques, they should help us spread this news. With this goodwill, they will be able to flush out those people from among them.”
Oritsejafor also noted that it was not enough for the Northern leaders to condemn any act of violence whenever it occurred; but they must do everything to stop them.