Gunmen opened fire on worshippers and detonated explosives at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria on Sunday, leaving dozens feared dead, state lawmakers said.
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 said.
“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.
The governor of Ondo state, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, condemned the “vile and satanic attack” on Sunday and pledged to find the assailants.
Rev Augustine Ikwu, a secretary of the Catholic Church in Ondo, said in a statement that the attack had “left the community devastated”.
“We turn to God to console the families of those whose lives were lost,” he said.
The bishop and priests from the parish had survived the attack unharmed, he said.
Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, whose government has been widely condemned for overseeing a sharp rise in insecurity across the country, also condemned the attack.
“No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people and darkness will never overcome light,” he said.
The identity and motive of the attackers was not immediately clear.
From the Vatican:
Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the victims and sent his prayers.
The Pope “prays for the victims and for the country, painfully attacked at a time of celebration, and he entrusts everyone to the Lord, that God might send His Spirit to console them,” said Matteo Bruni, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, on Sunday.
Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade, of the Diocese of Ondo, expressed his closeness to the victims and their families, according to Fr. Augustine Ikwu, the Communications Director for the diocese.
Fr. Ikwu said fears are rising that many more people may die from their wounds, and lamented that the Church had been “violated.”
He denied initial reports on social media that the attackers had kidnapped the priest and other members of the congregation.
“All the priests in the parish are safe and none was kidnapped,” said Fr. Ikwu in a press release. “The Bishop of the Diocese is also with them at this trying time.” He added that the Bishop also urges Catholics to “remain calm, be law abiding, and pray for peace and normalcy to return to our community, state, and country.”
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them …