(CMR) Over 50 worshippers at a Catholic church in southwest Nigeria were killed on Sunday after gunmen opened fire on Mass attendees, including women and children.
Reuters reported that the gunmen shot at people outside and inside the St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo, killing and injuring worshippers.
Ondo state Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who visited the scene of the attack and injured persons in hospital, described Sunday's incident as “a great massacre” that should not be allowed to happen again.
“It is so sad that while the Holy Mass was going on, unknown gunmen attacked St Francis Catholic Church…leaving many feared dead and many others injured and the Church violated,” Catholic Church spokesman in Nigeria, Reverend Augustine Ikwu, told Reuters.
A doctor at a hospital in Owo told Reuters that at least 50 bodies had been brought into two hospitals in the town from the attack.
Reuters said that President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attack, calling it “heinous.”
“The pope has learned of the attack on the church in Ondo, Nigeria, and the deaths of dozens of worshippers, many children, during the celebration of Pentecost. While the details are being clarified, Pope Francis prays for the victims and the country, painfully affected at a time of celebration, and entrusts them both to the Lord so that he may send his spirit to console them,” the pope said in a statement issued by the Vatican press office.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack on the church. While much of Nigeria has struggled with security issues, AP reported that Ondo is widely known as one of Nigeria's most peaceful states.
Officials have not confirmed the death toll.