Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the killings of an unknown number of Catholic worshippers who were attacked by gunmen during a Sunday service in the West African nation’s southwestern state of Ondo.
According to a statement cited by BBC, President Buhari said “only fiends from the nether region” were capable of committing this “dastardly act.” The president added in the statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, that eternal sorrow awaits the attackers “both on earth here, and ultimately in the hereafter.”
Worshippers had gathered at the St Francis Catholic church in the town of Owo to commemorate the holiday of Pentecost when gunmen entered the building and opened fire on them. Initial reports of the priest being kidnapped were denied by the church. And though authorities are yet to confirm the number of people who were killed in the attack, a doctor at a local hospital informed Reuters that two hospitals in the area had received at least 50 bodies.
The victims included children, state lawmaker Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole told the Associated Press. “No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people,” President Buhari said in the statement.
A witness who spoke with AFP also said at least 20 people were killed in the attack. He added that at least five gunmen were involved in the incident. “I was passing through the area when I heard a loud explosion and gunshots inside the church,” the witness recalled.
Responding to the incident on Twitter, Ondo state Governor Rotimi Akeredolu said he was “saddened by the unprovoked attack and killing of innocent people.”
“The vile & satanic attack is a calculated assault on the peace-loving people of Owo Kingdom who have enjoyed relative peace over the years,” he added. Akeredolu also called on people to be calm and not take the law into their own hands.
“The assailants will be hunted down and they will pay for their crimes,” said Akeredolu.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. But in recent times, Nigerian authorities have been trying to clamp down on several armed groups that are engaged in killings and kidnappings in a number of areas in the West African nation. Ondo state had not really experienced an attack of such nature until Sunday’s incident, BBC reported.
Nigerians have criticized President Buhari for not doing enough to mitigate the rising security problems in the country.
Last week, the head of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, Dr. Samuel Kanu, said kidnappers who abducted him and two other priests were paid 100m naira ($240,000) as ransom to secure their release, Face2Face Africa reported.
His abduction also came after the reported kidnapping of two Roman Catholic priests in the country’s northern state of Katsina. The priests and two other people were in their church’s rectory when gunmen forced their way in and abducted them.