ABUJA. Nigeria (AP) — Two infants are among 22 worshipers killed in an attack on a church in southwestern Nigeria that shocked the West African nation, an emergency official told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The dead were taken to the morgue while around 50 injured are still being treated in hospital following the attack on St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo town in Ondo state , Kadiri Olanrewaju, head of Nigeria’s national emergency management services, told Ondo.
The exact number of those killed is not known as some of the dead were taken by family members for private burials, residents said.
“It is only those from the hospital morgue that I give to you, not those from the church brought home for burial. ’emergency.
Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole and Adelegbe Timileyin, who both represent Owo in state and federal legislatures, earlier told AP that more than 50 people were killed in the attack.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 206 million people, has been grappling for more than a decade with an insurgency in the northeast by Islamic extremist rebels Boko Haram and its offshoot, the province of the Islamic State in West Africa. The country now faces growing insecurity issues, with separatists and pirates blamed for attacks in the south of the country while armed groups frequently launch deadly attacks in the northwest.
Before the attack on the church, Ondo was considered one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria. But now Owo, a small town of traders and government workers 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the Akure state capital, is reeling from the violence of the church attack .
Schools and public gathering places remained closed on Tuesday and many residents stayed at home, residents said.
Ondo police command has yet to make any arrests or confirm the identity of the attackers, believed to be at least five in number, a spokeswoman said.
“We can only confirm that explosives were used and we found three unexploded IEDs (improvised explosive devices) at the scene,” police spokeswoman Odunlami Funmilayo told the AP.
The attackers “sneaked” into the church premises, police said. Some of them were “disguised as worshipers while other gunmen who had positioned themselves around the church premises from different directions, fired into the church”, police added.
The assailants opened fire on worshipers just as the Pentecost Mass was ending, survivors said.
“There were no warnings, no threats, this place has been peaceful,” said Sunday Adewale, who works at the local chief’s palace. “They just looked for people’s weak point when people are relaxed.”