State lawmakers said shooters opened fire and detonated worshipers at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria on Sunday, killing dozens.
Legislator Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole said the attackers targeted the St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state in the same way worshipers gathered on Pentecost on Sunday. He noted that many children were also among the dead.
Adelegbe Timeline, who represents the Owo region in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber, said the presiding priest had also been abducted.
“Our hearts are heavy,” Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu tweeted Sunday. “The enemies of the people have attacked our peace and tranquillity.”
The governor was in Abuja to attend his party’s primary elections before the next elections. Still, he suspended his activities and returned to Ondo hours later, accompanied by state security officials.
Akeredolu said the attackers would be hunted down and prosecuted. He also urged residents to remain calm and not resort to retaliation. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.
There was no immediate death toll, but Adelegbe Timeline, who represents Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber, said at least 50 people were killed, while others said the figure would be higher. Video footage from the spot showed the worshipers lying in a pool of blood and people around them mourning.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack. While much of Nigeria is grappling with security issues, Ondo is widely known as one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria. However, the state has been caught in an increasingly violent conflict between farmers and herders.
“In the history of Ovo, we have never experienced such an ugly incident,” said MP Oluwole. “It’s got too much.”
Church officials said many of the wounded were fighting for their lives in hospitals. Some residents started a blood donation drive to help them.
Nigeria is currently facing a wave of violence by armed gangs. A week ago, Bishop Samuel Kanu Uche of the Methodist Church of Nigeria was kidnapped on his way to the airport in southeastern Abia state.
He was released two days after the church raised about $240,000 and paid the kidnappers.