Arrests made in Nigeria Pentecost massacre

Nigeria church attack State officials walk past injured victims on hospital beds being treated for wounds following an attack by gunmen at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, southwest Nigeria, on June 5, 2022. | AFP via Getty Images

At least seven people have been arrested in connection with a devastating June massacre at a Catholic Church in Nigeria, the governor of Ondo State in the West African country has confirmed.

Four of the arrests were made on Aug. 1, according to General Lucky Irabor, Chief of Nigeria’s Defense Staff. One of the arrested suspects is a high-ranking member of ISWAP — the so-called Islamic State in West Africa Province and a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, a group that at least one government official had blamed following the attack.

Two other suspects were arrested Aug. 9, and Ondo State’s governor, Arakunrin Akeredolu, reported that another person who housed the suspects before the attack was also arrested, Vatican News reported. It has not yet been announced if the suspects have been formally charged, and their names have not been released. 

On June 5, several gunmen attacked St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Nigeria, killing at least 40 people and injuring scores more with bullets and explosives. The victims spanned in age from a 2- and a 3-year-old all the way to 85. 

The assailants, some of whom sat through the Mass pretending to be worshippers, sprang into action toward the end of the service, detonating explosives and spraying bullets into the congregation. A priest present during the attack said he heard three or four explosions in addition to gunfire, with the entire attack lasting 20-25 minutes. 

At least 4,650 Christians were killed for their faith in 2021 and nearly 900 in the first three months of 2022 alone, according to the advocacy group Open Doors. Some aid organizations and experts are assembling evidence that the killing of Christians in Nigeria constitutes genocide

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