'Everybody Standing Was Bombarded With Bullets'

50 people feared dead in church massacre in Nigeria, and the motive is unclear
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 6, 2022 7:18 AM CDT
Few Answers After Church Massacre in Nigeria
Personal belongings lie on the pavement of St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Nigeria, Sunday, June 5, 2022.   (AP Photo/Rahaman A Yusuf)

As attackers opened fire on worshippers inside a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria, other gunmen waited outside to kill those who tried to flee, church officials and witnesses said Monday. At least 50 people including children were killed in the attack, according to a state lawmaker from the area. Worshippers had just arrived for Pentecost Sunday Mass when gunfire erupted at the St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state, said Bishop Jude Arogundade of the Ondo Catholic Diocese. Steven Omotayo, who lives near the church, rushed to the scene upon hearing the gunshots. “I saw a lot of dead bodies—both young and old, even children," he tells the AP. “The people came in and started shooting from the gate.”

It was not immediately known who was behind the church massacre, and authorities said the gunmen managed to flee the scene. While northern Nigeria has battled an Islamic insurgency for more than 13 years, Ondo state has long been considered one of the most peaceful states in the country. Omotayo said the church has three entrances and the main entrance was said to have been locked, making it difficult for many to escape. “They were just shooting. If they see anyone trying to escape or stand up, they will just shoot the person,” he said. “Everybody standing was bombarded with bullets.”

Hospital workers struggled to treat scores of wounded following the attack. The Nigeria Medical Association in Ondo state directed all available doctors to head to the hospitals to offer any help to dozens of critically wounded. "At a stage, even the blood got exhausted at our blood bank and we had to be pleading for blood," said a doctor at the Federal Medical Center in Owo who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Even as a physician, I have attended to a good number of casualties, but what I saw yesterday was far beyond whatever I have seen before in my life and in the practice."

(Read more Nigeria stories.)

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