Dozens Feared Useless in Church Assault in Nigeria


LAGOS, Nigeria — Dozens have been believed to be lifeless 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 sort 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 have been gathered on the church. No less than 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 in recent times, 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 night time, there had been no declare of accountability and the motive for the bloodbath was unclear.

Most assaults on church buildings have been within the north, however they’ve turn into much less frequent than they have been on the top of the Boko Haram insurgency round 2015. Within the southwest, the place the church assault passed off on Sunday, there have been kidnappings, most frequently by herdsmen in search of ransom, and there have been conflicts with herdsmen over new restrictions on open grazing.

Officers have 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 stated he had seen at the very least 20 lifeless, together with many youngsters. He estimated the demise toll at 70 to 100.

Adelegbe Timileyin, a federal lawmaker representing the Owo space, informed The Related Press that at the very least 50 individuals 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 happening round 11:30 a.m., armed assailants shot at worshipers from outdoors the church whereas different gunmen focused individuals contained in the constructing, the police stated in an announcement on Sunday night.

“It’s a black Sunday in Owo,” Ondo’s governor, Arakunrin Akeredolu, stated, condemning a “vile and satanic assault” in opposition to individuals “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, equivalent to killings and kidnappings, have principally occurred within the nation’s northwest and heart.

Final month, gunmen killed dozens of individuals within the central state of Plateau, and in April eight individuals have been killed and dozens have been kidnapped on a preferred prepare 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 secure different to a freeway the place kidnappings by bandits are widespread place, angered many Nigerians who blamed Mr. Buhari for his incapability to stem the surge of violence.

No group has claimed accountability for the prepare assault. The authorities have stated 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 pupil was crushed to demise and her physique set on hearth after fellow college students accused her of sending blasphemous messages in regards to the Prophet Muhammad in a WhatsApp group dialog.

Final week, a person was killed and burned to demise in Abuja after an argument with a Muslim cleric, the police stated. In late Could, the top of Nigeria’s Methodist Church was kidnapped and launched a couple of days later after Methodist officers stated 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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