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Dozens slain as gunmen attack Nigerian church with explosives

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At least 50 people are believed to have been killed during the attack in the southwestern Nigerian state of Ondo, though others put the figure higher. Photo: PA

At least 50 people are believed to have been killed during the attack in the southwestern Nigerian state of Ondo, though others put the figure higher. Photo: PA

At least 50 people are believed to have been killed during the attack in the southwestern Nigerian state of Ondo, though others put the figure higher. Photo: PA

Dozens of massgoers have been shot dead after gunmen opened fire and detonated explosives at a Catholic church in south-western Nigeria.

Many children are among the dead after attackers targeted the St Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state just as the worshippers gathered on Pentecost Sunday yesterday.

The presiding priest was abducted as well, according to Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents the Owo area in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber.

“Our hearts are heavy,” Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu tweeted. “Our peace and tranquility have been attacked by the enemies of the people.”

Authorities did not immediately release an official death toll. Mr Timileyin said at least 50 people had been killed, though others put the figure higher.

Videos appearing to be from the scene of the attack showed church worshippers lying in pools of blood while people around them wailed.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said “only fiends from the nether region could have conceived and carried out such dastardly act”, according to a statement from his spokesman.

“No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome light. Nigeria will eventually win,” said Mr Buhari, who was elected after vowing to end Nigeria’s prolonged security crisis.

In Rome, Pope Francis responded to news of the attack with a message of condolence.

“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.

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While much of Nigeria has struggled with security issues, Ondo is widely known as one of Nigeria’s most peaceful states. But the state has been caught up in a rising violent conflict between farmers and herders.

Nigeria’s security forces would not comment on how the attack occurred or whether there were any leads about suspects. Owo is about 345km east of Lagos.

“In the history of Owo, we have never experienced such an ugly incident,” said local legislator Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole. “This is too much.”


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