In Nigeria, several are feared dead in a church attack.
Gunmen opened fire on Catholics holding Mass in an otherwise tranquil region of the country. There was no admission of guilt, and the motivation was unclear.
Assailants assaulted a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria on Sunday, opening fire on worshippers as they celebrated Mass, according to local officials. Dozens were reportedly killed.
The attack on the St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, was the bloodiest attack on a church in Nigeria in years, and it brought violence often witnessed in the country’s north to a generally quiet section of the continent’s most populous nation.
On Pentecost Sunday, while dozens of worshippers were assembled at the church, the attack occurred. The building was invaded by at least four attackers, according to the police.
It was the first time in recent years that a church had been assaulted in the Nigerian state of Ondo, which had been spared the kinds of violence seen elsewhere in the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who has pledged to eradicate insecurity in Nigeria, condemned the attack as a “heinous act.”
As of Sunday night, no claim of responsibility had been made and the motivation for the massacre remained unknown.
The majority of church attacks have occurred in the north, however their frequency has decreased since the height of the Boko Haram conflict about 2015. In the southwest, where the attack on the church occurred on Sunday, there have been kidnappings, most commonly by ranchers seeking ransom, as well as disputes with herdsmen over new limitations on open grazing.
Sunday, officials were still assessing the casualty toll from the attack. Social media videos depicted people laying in pools of blood between church benches.
The majority leader of Ondo’s State Assembly, Oluwole Ogunmolasuyi, visited the massacre site and reported seeing at least 20 dead, including numerous children. He estimated between 70 and 100 fatalities.
Federal lawmaker representing the Owo region, Adelegbe Timileyin, told the Associated Press that at least 50 people had been killed.
The attack occurred in the midst of heightened social and economic tensions in Nigeria, where routine assassinations and kidnappings have exacerbated a profound sense of fear and hostility toward the government in advance of the upcoming presidential election in February.
At approximately 11:30 a.m., as Mass was taking place, armed intruders fired at worshippers from outside the church, while other gunmen targeted individuals inside the structure, according to a police statement released Sunday evening.
“It is a black Sunday in Owo,” declared the governor of Ondo, Arakunrin Akeredolu, condemning a “vile and demonic attack” against people “who had enjoyed relative calm for years.”
Nigeria is roughly divided between predominantly Christian southerners and predominantly Muslim northerners.
The majority of the killings and kidnappings that plague Nigeria have occurred in the country’s northwest and center.
In April, eight people were slain and others were kidnapped on a busy train route connecting the capital, Abuja, to the regional hub of Kaduna in the north.
Many Nigerians faulted Mr. Buhari for his inability to prevent the escalation of violence, given the incident occurred on a route that officials had promoted as a safer option to a highway where kidnappings by bandits are routine.
No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack on the train. Authorities claim that members of the terrorist organization Boko Haram collaborated with local bandits to carry out the attack. Kidnappers are still holding hostage dozens of travelers.
Occasional outbreaks of violence occur between the country’s Muslims and Christians. A Christian student was beaten to death and her body was burned on fire last month after fellow classmates accused her of sending insulting WhatsApp messages about the Prophet Muhammad.
According to the police, a man was slain and burned to death in Abuja last week following a disagreement with a Muslim preacher. The head of the Methodist Church in Nigeria was kidnapped in late May and freed a few days later after Methodist officials claimed to have paid a ransom.
In response to the attack on St. Francis Catholic Church on Sunday, Mr. Akeredolu, the governor of Ondo, also cautioned against vigilantism.