The attack happened during morning service at St. Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo in southwestern Nigeria, usually untouched by jihadists and criminal gangs active in other regions of the country.
Responsibility for the attack has not been claimed. His motives were not immediately known, but President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the
heinous murder of worshipers.
Pope Francis, for his part, lamented
the death of dozens of faithful, including many children.
As the details of the incident are being clarified, Pope Francis prays for the victims and for the country, painfully affected during a moment of celebration, and entrusts them to the Lord, so that he sends his Spirit to comfort themadded the Vatican press service.
The Nigerian authorities have not yet established a precise toll of the killing.
It is still early to say exactly how many people have been killed. But many worshipers lost their lives while others were injured in the attackstate police spokeswoman Ibukun Odunlami told theAFP .
A witness, who gave only his first name, Abayomi, told theAFP
I was passing through the neighborhood when I heard a loud explosion and gunshots inside the churchhe said.
He said he saw at least five armed men inside the church before fleeing.
Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in his statement called on security forces to find the attackers after the incident.
despicable and satanic attack.
According to state police spokeswoman Ibukun Odunlami, they attacked the church armed with firearms and explosives.
The challenge of security in Nigeria
The attack comes on the eve of the ruling APC party launching its primaries ahead of the 2023 presidential election to find a successor to leader Muhammadu Buhari, who is due to step down after two terms.
Security remains a major challenge in Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s largest economy.
Attacks on religious sites are particularly sensitive in Nigeria, where tensions are sometimes exacerbated between communities in a country whose south is mainly Christian and north mainly Muslim.
This type of attack is, however, rare in the relatively peaceful southwest of the country.
The Nigerian army, on the other hand, faces many hotbeds of insecurity in the rest of the country. A jihadist insurgency has been raging for 12 years in the northeast, gangs of looters and kidnappers terrorize the northwest and center, and the southeast is the scene of separatist movements.
The jihadist group Boko Haram, present in the northeast of the country, has already targeted churches during a conflict that has left 40,000 dead and two million displaced in Nigeria.