Around than 50 people are feared dead after gunmen opened fire on worshippers at a Catholic church in Nigeria.
The attackers targeted the St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo in the southwestern state of Ondo just as worshippers gathered on Pentecost Sunday, state politician Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole said.
Authorities did not immediately release an official death toll, but Mr Oluwole said many children were among the dead. Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents the Owo area in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber, said at least 50 people had been killed, though others put the figure higher.
Ondo State is a relatively peaceful state in contrast to the rest of Nigeria, which has been fighting against a jihadist insurgency and a conflict with bandits for over a decade. An uptick in violence between farmers and nomads in Ondo had been recorded prior to the massacre. The state’s government had recently passed restrictions on grazing
Mr Timileyin added that the church’s priest was also abducted.
Governor of Ondo State Rotimi Akeredolu left Abuja and went to the scene of the attack; he called it “vile and satanic” and a “Black Sunday.” Akeredolu vowed to “commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay.” President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari condemned the massacre saying it was a “heinous attack on worshippers.” Pope Francis prayed for the victims who were “painfully stricken in a moment of celebration.” No organization has claimed responsibility.
There was a shooting at the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in the Owo local government area. The worshippers inside the church were holding mass as they celebrated Pentecost. The attackers detonated improvised explosive devices right beside the building before they entered the church and opened fire on the churchgoers. Several passersby were also hit by bullets. Videos showed dead bodies of victims lying in pools of blood across the floor. A witness said that he saw five gunmen who perpetrated the attack. Two security forces officers were also killed.
A reverend who survived the massacre told stated that the attack happened when the church “[was] about to round off service. I had even asked people to start leaving, that was how we started hearing gunshots from different angles. We hid inside the church but some people had left when the attack happened. We locked ourselves in the church for 20 minutes. When we heard that they had left, we opened the church and rushed the victims to the hospital. BBC Confirmed.
In a statement, Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari said: “Only fiends from the nether region could have conceived and carried out such dastardly act.” The president was elected after vowing to end Nigeria’s prolonged security crisis.
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