At least 50 dead in the massacre of a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria

Band Fikayo Owoeye

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 news reports.

The armed men shot at people outside and inside the church building, killing and wounding worshippers, said Funmilayo Ibukun Odunlami, Ondo state police spokesperson.

She did not say how many people were killed or injured at St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo, but added that police were investigating the cause of the attack.

Ondo State Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who visited the scene of the attack and the injured in hospital, described Sunday’s incident as “a big massacre” that should not happen again.

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

“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 that at least 50 bodies had been brought in in two hospitals in the city of 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 struggling 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.

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

(([email protected]; Reuters Mail: [email protected]))

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Jerry B. Hatch