Warri, Jan 2: At least 14 churchgoers were killed by gunmen in Nigeria's Rivers State when they were returning from midnight service on Monday. The shooting took place in the town of Omoku about 90 kilometres from the southern oil hub of Port Harcourt.
"The gunmen opened fire on a set of worshippers at about 12:30 am on Monday," said Ugochi Olugbo, a relative of one of the victims who were attending a New Year's Eve service.
"Fourteen persons died on the spot, while 12 who sustained gunshot wounds were rushed to the hospital and are receiving medical attention," said a police source who asked to remain anonymous.
Rivers State police public relations officer Nnamdi Omoni said the number of casualties could not be confirmed at the moment.
"The commissioner of police, Ahmed Zaki, has also launched a manhunt for the bandits to ensure they are arrested and prosecuted," Omoni said. Rivers State, a region blighted by poverty despite a wealth of oil, is home to several powerful gangs that often engage in violent turf wars.
Such gangs, known as "cults" in Nigeria, began as university confraternities decades ago before evolving into powerful armed groups that now rule the streets of the destitute region.
On Nvember 24, Boko Haram jihadists shot dead seven men working on a farm in northeast Nigeria's Adamawa state.