Nigeria church attack: at least 50 killed in massacre

Gunmen opened fire at St Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state as worshippers gathered for Mass

Police say St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Nigeria, was also attacked with explosives. AP
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At least 50 people, including women and children, were killed by gunmen who attacked a Catholic church in Nigeria during Mass on Sunday, a hospital doctor and media reports said.

People were shot inside and outside St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo, in the south-west of the country, said Funmilayo Odunlami, police spokeswoman for Ondo state.

Police are investigating the cause of the attack, she said.

Ms Odunlami said the church was also attacked with explosives.

“It is still premature to say exactly how many people were killed. But many worshippers lost their lives while others were injured in the attack,” she told AFP.

Ondo Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who visited the scene and wounded people in hospital, described Sunday's incident as “a great massacre” that should not be allowed to happen again, Reuters reported.

The identity and motive of the attackers was not immediately clear.

Rev Augustine Ikwu, Catholic Church spokesman in Nigeria, said it was “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”.

Mr Ikwu said the bishop and priests from the parish had survived the attack unharmed.

A doctor at a hospital in Owo told Reuters that at least 50 bodies had been brought to two hospitals in the town. The doctor also said there was a need for blood donations to treat the wounded.

President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attack, calling it “heinous”, while the Vatican said Pope Francis was praying for the victims who had been “painfully stricken in a moment of celebration”.

Nigeria is battling an insurgency in the north-east and armed gangs who carry out attacks and kidnappings for ransom, mostly in the north-west.

Pope Francis said in a statement he had learned of the "death of dozens of faithful", many children, during the celebration of the Christian holiday of the Pentecost.

"While the details of the incident are being clarified, Pope Francis prays for the victims and for the country," he said.

The UAE strongly condemned the attack, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation affirming the country's strong denunciation of these criminal acts and its permanent rejection of all forms of violence and terrorism aimed at destabilising security in contravention of humanitarian values and principles.

The ministry also expressed its sympathy and sincere condolences to the Nigerian government and people, and to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to the wounded.

Updated: June 06, 2022, 10:09 AM