(UPDATED) Terrorists target Mass in Ondo, a normally peaceful southwestern state which recently passed grazing restrictions affecting Fulani herdsmen.
ABUJA, Nigeria – Terrorists launched a gun and bomb attack at the end of a Catholic Mass in southwest Nigeria on Sunday, killing an estimated 70 worshipers according to residents and church leaders.
The terrorists attacked the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo state, at about 9 a.m., church leaders and residents told Morning Star News (MSN) in text messages shortly after the attack.
A priest at the church, Andrew Abayomi, told MSN that as the worship service was coming to an end, the terrorists threw explosive devices and shot at worshipers.
“We were in worship Mass when the terrorists attacked us. They shot at the congregation while breaking into the church by throwing improvised explosive devices at the church building,” Abayomi said. “Some of us hid inside the church as they shot randomly at us. This lasted for about 20 minutes before they retreated.”
He said it was difficult to give details about the number killed and injured, as leaders were focusing on transferring the wounded to hospitals. Circulated videos showed bloody images of men, women, and children strewed among the pews.
Among other Owo residents, Loye Owolemi said about 70 worshipers were shot dead and others abducted when terrorists attacked the church service.
The Associated Press reported that one kidnapping victim was the presiding priest. Pope Francis was aware, stated the Vatican, and is praying.
Nigeria, ranked No. 7 on Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List (WWL), led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year at 4,650 (from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021), up from 3,530 the previous reporting period. The West African nation’s 470 attacks on churches trailed only China’s tally.