Gunmen attacked a Catholic church in southwest Nigeria during mass on Sunday, killing at least 50 people including women and children, according to a hospital doctor and media reports.
The gunmen shot at people outside and inside the church building, killing and injuries worshippers, said Funmilayo Ibukun Odunlami, police spokesperson for Ondo state. Other reports said that the gunmen threw dynamite into the building filled with not less than 500 congregants.
She did not say how many people were killed or injured at St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo but added police were investigating the cause of the attack.
Ondo state Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who visited the scene of the attack and injured persons in hospital, described Sunday’s incident as “a great massacre” that should not be allowed to happen again.
The identity and motive of the attackers was not immediately clear.
“It is so sad that while the Holy Mass was going on, unknown gunmen attacked St Francis Catholic Church…leaving many feared dead and many others injured and the Church violated,” said Catholic Church spokesman in Nigeria, Reverend Augustine Ikwu.
Rev. Ikwu said the bishop and priests from the parish had survived the attack unharmed.
The bishop of local, Ondo Diocese, Jude Arogundade, who visited the scene of the attack said, that the world should know is that Nigeria is in war and this kind of war is directed at civilians.
At least 50 murdered
A doctor at a hospital in Owo told Reuters that at least 50 bodies had been brought into two hospitals in the town from the attack. The doctor, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press, also said there was a need for blood donations to treat the injured.
President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attack, calling it “heinous”, and the Vatican said Pope Francis was praying for the victims who had been “painfully stricken in a moment of celebration”.