An undetermined number of people were killed by gunmen in a Catholic church in Nigeria during the Pentecost Mass on Sunday. The attack, which was denounced as a “hateful murder of the faithful” by President Muhammadu Buhari and was not claimed, took place during the morning service at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo City. in the state of Ondo (southwest), usually spared by jihadists and criminal gangs active in other parts of the country.
The Nigerian authorities have not yet established an accurate record of the killing. “It’s too early to tell exactly how many people were killed. But many worshipers were killed and others were injured in the attack, “State Police spokeswoman Ibukun Odunlami told AFP.
A witness, who gave only his first name, Abayomi, told AFP that at least 20 worshipers had perished in the attack. “I was walking through the neighborhood when I heard a loud explosion and gunfire inside the church,” he said.
He said he spotted at least five gunmen inside the church before fleeing.
An attack described as “ignoble and satanic”
“The Pope has learned of the attack on the church in Ondo, Nigeria, and the deaths of dozens of faithful, including many children, during the celebration of Pentecost,” the press service said. Vatican in a statement. “While the details of the incident are being clarified, Pope Francis prays for the victims and for the country, who are painfully affected during a moment of celebration, and entrusts them to the Lord, so that he may send his Spirit to comfort them. ”
Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu called on security forces to find the assailants after the “ignoble and satanic attack.”
According to the state police spokeswoman, they attacked the church with guns and explosives.
Rare attacks in the southwest of the country
The attack comes on the eve of the launch by the ruling APC of its primaries for the 2023 presidential election to win the succession of Muhammadu Buhari, a former army commander who will retire 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 sometimes escalate between communities in a predominantly Christian southeast and a predominantly Muslim north.
However, this type of attack is rare in the southwest of the country, which is relatively peaceful. The Nigerian military, on the other hand, faces many hotbeds of insecurity in the rest of the country. A jihadist insurgency has been raging in the northeast for 12 years, gangs of looters and kidnappers terrorizing the northwest and center, and the southeast is the scene of separatist movements. The Boko Haram jihadist group in the north-east of the country has already targeted churches during a conflict that has killed 40,000 people and displaced 2 million in Nigeria.
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