Dozens of people have been killed in an attack at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria, a doctor and an official have said.
Gunmen opened fire and detonated explosives as worshipers gathered at the St Francis Catholic Church, Owo in Ondo state on Sunday, legislator Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole told the Associated Press news agency.
There were many children among the dead, said Oluwole, who visited the scene and also the hospital in Owo – a town in the state where many of the wounded were being treated.
Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents Owo in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber, said at least 50 people had been killed in the attack.
A doctor at a hospital in Owo said no fewer than 50 bodies had been moved to Owo’s Federal Medical Centre and St Louis Catholic Hospital, Reuters news agency reported.
Authorities did not immediately release an official death toll. No group claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack.
Videos appearing to be from the scene of the attack showed church worshipers lying in pools of blood while people around them wailed.
Ondo Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu said he was heading back to the state from the capital Abuja after the “unprovoked attack and killing of innocent people of Owo”.
“We shall commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay,” he said in a statement, calling the assault “vile and satanic”.
While much of Nigeria has struggled with security issues, Ondo is widely known as one of the country’s most peaceful states.
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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the “heinous killing of worshipers”.
“No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome light. Nigeria will eventually win,” the president’s office said in a statement.
The Vatican said Pope Francis was praying for the victims of the attack who were “painfully stricken in a moment of celebration”.
The Vatican statement said the pope had been informed of the attack and was waiting to receive more details.
State police spokeswoman Ibukun Odunlami, said the death toll was still unclear. “It’s still premature to say exactly how many people were killed. But many worshippers lost their lives while others were injured in the attack.”
Africa’s most populous country has witnessed attacks and kidnappings for ransom by armed gangs, mostly in its northwest. Such attacks are rare in southern Nigeria.
The Catholic authority in the state confirmed the church attack, but denied the bishop and priests had been kidnapped as reports suggested on social media.
Source: News Agencies