Victims are still being identified after dozens of churchgoers are dead after a terrorist attack in Nigeria on Sunday morning. Terrorists rode up on motorcycles and began shooting those who showed up for mass at St. Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo.
Witnesses also report explosions immediately before the shooting began during the special Pentecost services.
“A doctor at a hospital in Owo told Reuters that at least 50 bodies had been brought in to two hospitals in the town from the attack.” Many of the dead are children.
The doctor, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the press, also said there was a need for blood donations to treat the injured.
Laide Ajanaku lost her both parents in the gruesome attack.
“We heard it was an explosion at first, then we started panicking and calling everyone for information,” Ajanaku told CNN Monday.
“Somebody had my dad’s phone. I still don’t know who that person was. The person picked up and said my dad had been injured and had been taken to the hospital, but he didn’t know anything about my mum’s whereabouts. He later said my dad didn’t make it. We eventually got through to a priest friend who confirmed that my mum had died as well.”
Ajanaku said her parents’ bodies were later identified at the morgue. Her father John Adesina Ajanaku, 67, and mother Olabimpe Susanah, 64, never missed church on a Sunday, she said.
Such attacks are rare in the area but are more common in northern part of country, where Islamic terrorists who belong to Boko Haram carry out widespread violence. Knife-wielding Islamic terrorists belonging to ISIS executed 20 Christians in Nigeria last month.
“I am deeply saddened by the unprovoked attack and killing of innocent people of Owo worshiping at the St. Francis Catholic Church today,” Arakunrin Akeredolu, the governor of Ondo State in Nigeria, wrote on Twitter. “The vile and satanic attack is a calculated assault on the peace-loving people of Owo Kingdom who have enjoyed relative peace over the years. It is a black Sunday in Owo. Our hearts are heavy. Our peace and tranquility have been attacked by the enemies of the people. This is a personal loss, an attack on our dear state.”
Akeredolu said he spoke with the bishop of the Catholic diocese of Ondo, Most Reverend Jude Arogundade, and that the church official was on his way to the scene along with Akeredolu, who cut short a work trip to return to the area.
“This is an unexpected development,” he said. “I am shocked to say the least. Nevertheless, we shall commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay. We shall never bow to the machinations of heartless elements in our resolves to rid our state of criminals. I urge our people to remain calm and vigilant. Do not take laws into your hands. I have spoken to the heads of the security agencies. I have equally been assured that security operatives would be deployed to monitor and restore normalcy to Owo Kingdom.”
State security agencies have been deployed to the community, according to a statement by the Catholic Diocese of Ondo, Nigeria. Priests and bishops in the parish have are safe, the diocese said.
Akeredolu will travel to Ondo State in the coming days, he said, urging the community to remain “calm and vigilant.”
“We shall never bow to the machinations of heartless elements in our resolves to rid our state of criminals,” he said.
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice