ABUJA, Nigeria ( Associated Press) — Gunmen opened fire on worshipers and detonated explosives Sunday at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria, killing dozens, state lawmakers said.
The assailants attacked the San Francisco church in Ondo state as worshipers were celebrating on Pentecost Sunday, lawmaker Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole said. Among the dead were many children, he added.
Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents the Owo area in the lower house, said the priest who officiated at the mass was kidnapped.
“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 a death toll. Timileyin said at least 50 people had been killed, although others put the figure higher. Videos that appeared to be from the scene of the attack showed worshipers lying in pools of blood as people around them wept.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari claimed that “only demons from the underworld could have conceived and carried out such a vile act,” according to a statement from his spokesman.
“No matter what happens, this country will never give in to evil and the wicked, and darkness will never defeat light. Nigeria will win out,” said Buhari, who was elected after promising to end the country’s protracted security crisis.
In Rome, Pope Francis responded to the news of the attack.
“The pope has learned of the attack on the church in Ondo, Nigeria, and the death of dozens of faithful, many of them children, during the celebration of Pentecost. While the details are being clarified, Pope Francis prays for the victims and for the country, painfully affected in a moment of celebration, and entrusts both to the Lord so that he may send his spirit to console them,” the pontiff said in a statement issued by the Pope. Vatican press office.
It was not clear who carried out the attack. While much of Nigeria has security concerns, Ondo is considered one of the most peaceful states. However, in it there is an emerging conflict between farmers and ranchers.
Nigerian security forces did not immediately respond to questions about how the attack took place or if there are any leads on the suspects. Owo is about 345 kilometers (215 miles) east of Lagos.
“In the history of Owo we have never experienced such an ugly incident,” said lawmaker Oluwole. “This is too much”.