Dozens Feared Dead in Church Attack in Nigeria

LAGOS, Nigeria — Dozens had been believed to be lifeless after assailants attacked a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria on Sunday, firing on worshipers as they celebrated Mass, in line with native officers.

The assault on the St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, in Ondo State, was the deadliest assault on a church in Nigeria in years, and introduced the sort of violence often seen in the nation’s north to a comparatively peaceable space of Africa’s most populous nation.

The assault occurred on Pentecost Sunday as dozens of worshipers had been gathered on the church. At least 4 assailants stormed the constructing, in line with the police.

It was the primary time {that a} church had been attacked in the Ondo state in latest years, bringing a brand new sense of insecurity to a state that had been spared the degrees of violence seen elsewhere in Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who has promised to finish Nigeria’s insecurity, condemned the assault as a “dastardly act.”

As of Sunday evening, there had been no declare of accountability and the motive for the bloodbath was unclear.

Most assaults on church buildings have been in the north, however they’ve change into much less frequent than they had been on the top of the Boko Haram insurgency round 2015. In the southwest, the place the church assault befell on Sunday, there have been kidnappings, most frequently by herdsmen looking for ransom, and there have been conflicts with herdsmen over new restrictions on open grazing.

Officials had been nonetheless assessing the toll of the assault on Sunday. Videos posted on social media confirmed our bodies mendacity in swimming pools of blood between church pews.

Oluwole Ogunmolasuyi, the bulk chief of Ondo’s State Assembly, went to the scene of the bloodbath and stated he had seen at the very least 20 lifeless, together with many kids. He estimated the demise toll at 70 to 100.

Adelegbe Timileyin, a federal lawmaker representing the Owo space, informed The Associated Press that at the very least 50 individuals had been killed.

The assault got here amid renewed social and financial tensions in Nigeria, the place common killings and kidnappings have compounded a deep sense of insecurity and resentment of the federal government forward of the following presidential election scheduled for February.

As Mass was going down round 11:30 a.m., armed assailants shot at worshipers from exterior the church whereas different gunmen focused individuals contained in the constructing, the police stated in a press release on Sunday night.

“It is a black Sunday in Owo,” Ondo’s governor, Arakunrin Akeredolu, stated, condemning a “vile and satanic attack” towards individuals “who have enjoyed relative peace over the years.”

Nigeria is roughly divided between Christians dwelling predominantly in the south and Muslims populating the nation’s north.

Much of the violence plaguing Nigeria, similar to killings and kidnappings, have largely occurred in the nation’s northwest and heart.

Last month, gunmen killed dozens of individuals in the central state of Plateau, and in April eight individuals had been killed and dozens had been kidnapped on a well-liked prepare route connecting the capital, Abuja, to the regional hub of Kaduna in the north.

The assault, on a route that the authorities boasted was a secure different to a freeway the place kidnappings by bandits are frequent place, angered many Nigerians who blamed Mr. Buhari for his lack of ability to stem the surge of violence.

No group has claimed accountability for the prepare assault. The authorities have stated that parts of the Boko Haram terrorist group had teamed up with native bandits for the assault. Dozens of passengers are nonetheless being held hostage by kidnappers.

Episodes of violence often flare up between the nation’s Muslims and Christians. Last month, a Christian scholar was crushed to demise and her physique set on hearth after fellow college students accused her of sending blasphemous messages concerning the Prophet Muhammad in a WhatsApp group dialog.

Last week, a person was killed and burned to demise in Abuja after an argument with a Muslim cleric, the police stated. In late May, the pinnacle of Nigeria’s Methodist Church was kidnapped and launched a number of days later after Methodist officers stated that they had paid a ransom.

On Sunday after the assault on St. Francis Catholic Church, Mr. Akeredolu, Ondo’s governor, additionally warned towards vigilantism in response to the assault.

Ben Ezeamalu reported from Lagos, Nigeria, and Elian Peltier from Dakar, Senegal.

Back to top button