More than 50 feared dead in church attack in southern Nigeria
Armed assailants attacked a Catholic church in southwest Nigeria on Sunday with gunfire and explosives, leaving at least 50 people dead.
The unidentified gunmen targeted the St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo state during a mass, lawmaker Ogunmolasuyi Oluwhole said, adding there were children and women among the dead.
The attackers shot at people outside and inside the church building, killing and injuring worshippers, said police spokesperson for Ondo state, Funmilayo Ibukun Odunlami.
Odunlami did not specify the casualty toll but said the police were investigating the cause of the attack.
Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents the Owo area in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber, said at least 50 people had been killed in the gruesome attack, though others put the figure higher.
The assailants -- whose motives and affiliation remain unknown -- also abducted the church’s presiding priest, Timileyin said.
Videos appearing to be from the scene of the attack showed chaos and commotion at the church and worshippers lying in pools of blood.
Ondo state Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who visited the scene of the attack, described the deadly incident as "a great massacre" that should not be allowed to happen again.
"I am deeply saddened by the unprovoked attack and killing of innocent people of Owo, worshiping at the St. Francis Catholic Church, today," he said on Twitter, adding that "the vile and satanic attack is a calculated assault on the peace-loving people of the Owo Kingdom who have enjoyed relative peace over the years."
He vowed to "commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay."
While much of Nigeria has struggled with security issues, Ondo is widely considered one of the peaceful states in the country.
The state, however, has been caught in a violent conflict between farmers and herders.
Nigeria's security forces have not yet commented on how the attack took place or if there were any leads about suspects. Owo is about 215 miles east of Lagos.