The attack on Sunday against a Catholic church in Nigeria, carried out by armed men and with explosives, left 21 dead, including children, and several wounded, a local government official said on Monday.
Richard Olatunde, a spokesman for the Ondo state governor’s office, told AFP that there was a dynamite explosion inside the church in the town of Owo before gunmen opened fire through the windows while mass was being celebrated.
This attack, which was denounced as a “heinous murder of the faithful” by President Muhammadu Buhari, was not claimed.
It occurred during the morning religious service at St Francis Catholic Church in the city of Owo, in Ondo state, which has usually been fairly safe from attacks by jihadists and criminal gangs active in other regions of the country.
On Sunday afternoon, Pope Francis reacted in a statement stating “having become aware of the attack on the church of Ondo, and the death of dozens of faithful, including several children, during the celebration of Pentecost” and that he “prayed for the victims and for the country”.
Security is a major challenge in Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s largest economy.
Attacks on religious sites have a particular impact and heighten tension in Nigeria, which is largely Christian in the south and Muslim in the north.
For 12 years, the security forces have faced a jihadist insurrection in the northeast of the country, while criminal groups commit mass kidnappings in the northwest and center, and separatist groups operate in the southeast.