At least 50 dead in attack on Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria – doctor

  • Unidentified gunmen attacked a church during Sunday mass
  • Local media and doctor say at least 50 people have been killed
  • Authorities have not yet released details.
  • Such rare attacks in southwestern Nigeria
  • Pope Francis prayed for victims, Vatican says

LAGOS, June 5 (Reuters) – Gunmen attacked a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria during mass on Sunday, killing at least 50 people, including women and children, according to a doctor at the hospital and media.

Several Nigerian news outlets said gunmen fired on worshipers and detonated explosives at St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo. The identity and motive of the attackers were not immediately clear.

Authorities have not yet released details of the attack. Ondo state police spokesman Funmilayo Ibukun Odunlami said the police would issue another statement soon.

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“It is so sad that during Holy Mass, unknown gunmen attacked St. Francis Catholic Church…leaving many dead and many more injured and the Church violated,” the spokesperson said. of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, Reverend Augustine Ikwu.

Ikwu said the bishop and parish priests survived the attack unscathed.

A doctor at a hospital in Owo told Reuters at least 50 bodies were taken to two hospitals in the city after the attack. The doctor, who declined to be named because he is not authorized 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 were “painfully struck in a moment of celebration”.

Nigeria is grappling with an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and armed gangs carrying out attacks and kidnappings for ransom, mainly in the northwest.

In the southwest, attacks like this are rare. Ondo State Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu cut short a trip to the capital Abuja and returned to Ondo after the attack. “We will commit all available resources to tracking down these attackers and making them pay,” he said in a statement.

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Reporting by Fikayo Owoeye in Lagos, MacDonald Dzirutwe, Camillus Eboh and Felix Onuah in Abuja; Editing by Catherine Evans and David Holmes

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Jerry B. Hatch