Gunmen have killed several church worshipers including children in Ondo State, south-west Nigeria. The armed men entered St Francis Catholic church in the town of Owo during a Sunday service. They fired into the congregation killing nearly a hundred church-goers, witnesses said.
A doctor at a local hospital said several worshippers were brought in dead while hundred including children has severe bullet injuries.
Exactly a week ago the head of the Methodist Church in Nigeria was abducted along with two other clerics in the south-east of the country. The Methodist prelate said he paid $240,000 (£190,000) to be freed with his companions. Two weeks ago, two Catholic priests were kidnapped in Katsina, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state in the north of the country. They have not been released.
President Muhammadu Buhari said only friends from the underground region could have conceived and carried out such a dastardly act, adding that eternal sorrow awaits them both on earth here and ultimately in the hereafter.
“No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome the light. Nigeria will eventually win,” the President said.
He is in the final year of his two-term presidency and has been criticised for failing to get to grips with the country’s security problems.
Nigeria has experienced an upsurge in violence in recent months. Kidnappings and attacks have been reported across the vast country.
After visiting the church and hospital, the Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu called it a “vile and satanic attack” on innocent people. He appealed for calm urging people not to take the law into their own hands.
“The assailants will be hunted down and they will pay for their crimes,” he added in a message sent after being briefed at the scene.
No-one has said that they were behind this attack, but Nigeria is facing worsening violence by armed groups. But Ondo State has, until now, been relatively untouched.
In March, gunmen targeted the vital rail link between Abuja and the northern city of Kaduna killing several and kidnapping dozens of others, many of whom are still being held.
Meanwhile, the diocese has issued a statement through its Director Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Augustine Ikwu.
The statement reads: “It is Pentecost Sunday when every Catholic is expected to be in Church to commemorate the Solemnity. It is so sad to say that while the Holy Mass was going on, unknown Gunmen attacked St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State. Leaving many feared dead and many others injured and the Church violated.
“The identity of the perpetrators remains unknown while the situation has left the community devastated. However, for now, security agencies have been deployed to the community to relatively handle the situation. At this point in the history of our dear country Nigeria, we need God’s ultimate intervention to restore peace and tranquility.
“Meanwhile, all the Priests and Bishop in the parish are safe and non was kidnapped as the social media has it. Nonetheless, let us continue to pray for them and the good people of Owo and the state at large.
“We turn to God to console the families of those whose lives were lost to this distressing incident, and we pray for the departed souls to rest in peace. Amen.
“The Bishop appeals that we remain calm, be law abiding and pray for peace and normalcy to return to our community, state and country”.