Gunmen attacked a Catholic church in Nigeria’s Ondo state during Sunday mass June 5, killing at least 28 people.
The attackers rode in on motorcycles and stormed St. Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo as the service was coming to a close. The attackers detonated explosives and opened fire on frightened congregants.
Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu called it a “vile and satanic attack” and a “calculated assault on the peace-loving people of Owo Kingdom.”
As many as 50 may have been killed, but local officials have not confirmed the total number of casualties.
Augustine Ikwu, a spokesperson for the Catholic church in Nigeria, said the bishop and priests from the parish had survived the attack unharmed. The church has denied initial reports that the presiding priest had been abducted, according to news reports.
Violence against Christians
Attacks in southwest Nigeria are rare, but violence against Christians, primarily by terrorists with ties to Islamist groups, are common in the country’s north.
Akeredolu released a statement on Twitter calling on all Nigerian people to “condemn, in the strongest term possible, this latest assault on decency and communal harmony.”
He said security agencies will investigate the attack and said a joint security meeting of leaders in the southwest part of the country will be held to discuss the situation.
In the meantime, Akeredolu called on local residents to “remain vigilant and report any suspicious movement in their communities.”
In a May 22 event at the Church at Shelby Crossings in Calera, members of the International Committee on Nigeria spoke about the increasing violence in the country. Zamani Kafang, a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Kaduna State University in Kaduna, Nigeria, and a member of ICON, said he personally knows 20 pastors who have been killed during the past 10 years.
“Radicalized Muslims are persecuting us, and we need America — the champion of freedom — to pressure our government to help us,” he said.