Some gunmen who were suspected to be Fulani herdsmen reportedly killed at least 19 people in a church in Ukpor, Mbalom community in the Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State.
It is understood that the gunmen killed the two Catholic priests, Rev Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, in an early hour attack on St Ignatius Quasi Parish in Ukpor.
Also among the victims were two school head teachers and a secondary school principal, identified as Peter Dick, Ape Chia and Michael Tor, respectively.
It was gathered that the Catholic faithful had gone for morning mass around 5.30am and unknown to them, the militia herdsmen had laid ambush in the community.
The armed men later surrounded the church and killed all the early callers in the church.
Confirming the attack on the church, The Director of Communications, Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, Rev. Father Moses Iorapuu, said,
“Rev. Father Joseph Gor and Rev. Father Felix Tyolaha have been killed in the deadly attack by herdsmen/Jihadists early today (Tuesday) in St. Ignatius Quasi parish in Ukpor-Mbalom in Mbalom village.”
Iorapuu, who stated that the herdsmen also burnt down homes, destroyed foodstuffs, said, “to go for the priests means total destruction of everything we stand for and believe in as a people.”
“The police seem to know nothing of the attacks which have been going on in other villages in Benue State since the Anti-Open Grazing Law came into effect last year.
“Many people are asking why the international community has remained silent over the massacre of Benue citizens.
“The answer is simple: It has been the goal of the Jihadists to conquer Benue and Tiv people who resisted their advance into the Middle Belt and the Eastern part of Nigeria since 1804; they are people who rejected Islam and fought for the unification of Nigeria in the civil war of 1967 – 1970.”
According to the Catholic spokesman, the people of Eastern Nigeria have little sympathy for Benue people who fought on the side of Nigeria, adding that the Muslim North is enjoying a sweet revenge overshadowed by an insensitive regime.
He noted there were over 170,000 internally displaced persons before the Naka invasion, adding that with the situation on the ground in Mbalom, Benue would be flooded with thousands more.
“What cannot be said at this point is the consequences of the death of missionaries in the killings that have been ignored by the government for over a year.
“The Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, which is one of the largest dioceses in Nigeria, has been active in providing relief materials, including education and skills acquisition lessons, to victims of the attacks,” he added.
It was learnt that when youths in Makurdi, the state capital, saw the body of one of the slain priests being brought to St Theresa’s Hospital Mortuary without its head, they got angry and took to the streets in protest.
The protest forced traders to shut down the popular Wurukum market. Banks and other business premises were hurriedly shut. Parents withdrew their children from schools.
The popular Katsina Ala Street, Igyor Chia Ayu Road and Makurdi – Gboko was deserted as residents trekked many kilometres to their destinations.