Dozens Feared Dead in Church Attack in Nigeria


LAGOS, Nigeria — Dozens had been believed to be useless after assailants attacked a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria on Sunday, firing on worshipers as they celebrated Mass, in response to 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 form of violence normally seen within 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 the very least 4 assailants stormed the constructing, in response to the police.

It was the primary time {that a} church had been attacked within the Ondo state lately, 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 duty and the motive for the bloodbath was unclear.

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

Officers had been nonetheless assessing the toll of the assault on Sunday. Movies 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 Meeting, went to the scene of the bloodbath and mentioned he had seen at the very least 20 useless, together with many kids. He estimated the loss of life toll at 70 to 100.

Adelegbe Timileyin, a federal lawmaker representing the Owo space, instructed The Related Press that at the very least 50 folks 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 folks contained in the constructing, the police mentioned in a press release on Sunday night.

“It’s a black Sunday in Owo,” Ondo’s governor, Arakunrin Akeredolu, mentioned, condemning a “vile and satanic assault” in opposition to folks “who’ve loved relative peace over time.”

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

A lot of the violence plaguing Nigeria, comparable to killings and kidnappings, have largely occurred within the nation’s northwest and middle.

Final month, gunmen killed dozens of individuals within the central state of Plateau, and in April eight folks had been killed and dozens had been kidnapped on a popular train route connecting the capital, Abuja, to the regional hub of Kaduna within the north.

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

No group has claimed duty for the practice assault. The authorities have mentioned 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. Final month, a Christian scholar was crushed to loss of life 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.

Final week, a person was killed and burned to loss of life in Abuja after an argument with a Muslim cleric, the police mentioned. In late Could, the top of Nigeria’s Methodist Church was kidnapped and launched a couple of days later after Methodist officers mentioned that they had paid a ransom.

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

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

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