Over 50 feared dead in Nigeria church attack, officials say

Dozens of worshippers have been killed after gunmen opened fire and detonated explosives at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria on Sunday.

The attackers targeted the St Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state just as the worshippers gathered on Pentecost Sunday, legislator Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole said.

Among the dead were many children, he added.

Shoes and personal belongings lie on the floor following the devastating attack in a Church in south west Nigeria

(AP)

The presiding priest was abducted as well, said Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents the Owo area in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber.

“Our hearts are heavy,” Ondo governor Rotimi Akeredolu tweeted Sunday. “Our peace and tranquility have been attacked by the enemies of the people.”

Authorities did not immediately release an official death toll. Timileyin said at least 50 people had been killed, though others put the figure higher.

Videos appearing to be from the scene of the attack showed church worshippers lying in pools of blood while people around them wailed.

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari said “only fiends from the nether region could have conceived and carried out such dastardly act,” according to a statement from his spokesman.

“No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome light. Nigeria will eventually win,” said Mr Buhari, who was elected after vowing to end Nigeria’s prolonged security crisis.

The attackers targeted the St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state just as the worshippers gathered on Pentecost Sunday

(AP)

In Rome, Pope Francis responded to news of the attack.

“The pope has learned of the attack on the church in Ondo, Nigeria and the deaths of dozens of worshippers, many children, during the celebration of Pentecost.

“While the details are being clarified, Pope Francis prays for the victims and the country, painfully affected at a time of celebration, and entrusts them both to the Lord so that he may send his spirit to console them,” the pope said in a statement issued by the Vatican press office.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack on the church.

While much of Nigeria has struggled with security issues, Ondo is widely known as one of Nigeria’s most peaceful states.

The state, though, has been caught up in a rising violent conflict between farmers and herders.

“In the history of Owo, we have never experienced such an ugly incident,” said lawmaker Oluwole. “This is too much.”

Nigeria’s security forces did not immediately respond to questions about how the attack occurred or if there are any leads about suspects.

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