Survivors of massacre in Nigeria church tell of horror

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Relatives gather around one of the victims of the attack by gunmen during a Sunday mass service, as she receives treatment at the Federal Medical Centre in Owo (REUTERS)
Relatives gather around one of the victims of the attack by gunmen during a Sunday mass service, as she receives treatment at the Federal Medical Centre in Owo (REUTERS)

Survivors have spoken out after at least 50 people including women and children were reportedly killed during an attack on a catholic church in Nigeria.

The gunmen shot at worshippers outside and inside mass at the St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo on Sunday, said Funmilayo Ibukun Odunlami, police spokesperson for Ondo state.

Police have yet to release a death toll following the tragedy. Authorities have said nothing about the identity or motive of the attackers.

But Ondo state Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who visited the scene of the attack and injured persons in hospital, described Sunday’s incident as “a great massacre” that should not be allowed to happen again.

“It is so sad that while the Holy Mass was going on, unknown gunmen attacked St Francis Catholic Church...leaving many feared dead and many others injured and the Church violated,” said Catholic Church spokesman in Nigeria, Reverend Augustine Ikwu.

Mr Ikwu said the bishop and priests from the parish had survived the attack unharmed.

A doctor at a hospital in Owo told Reuters that at least 50 bodies had been brought into two hospitals in the town from the attack. The doctor, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press, also said there was a need for blood donations to treat the injured.

President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attack, calling it “heinous”, and the Vatican said Pope Francis was praying for the victims who had been “painfully stricken in a moment of celebration”.

Survivors of the attack by unknown assailants on a Catholic church in Nigeria lay weeping and writhing in pain at a local hospital on Monday after suffering what a doctor described as lacerations, bullet wounds and blast injuries.

“Immediately they entered and started firing everywhere, so many people,” said Alex Michael, who was shot in the leg while protecting his children by hiding them under chairs. He appeared dazed as he sat on his hospital bed.

Around him were other survivors, many with limbs wrapped in bloodstained bandages. One man writhed and moaned on his bed, while a woman wept as she embraced her brother. A 15-year-old victim lay silently with a drip in his hand.

Dr Samuel Aluko, a registrar at the hospital, said 27 adult victims were receiving treatment in his department for a wide range of injuries, some of which were life-threatening. He said one woman had lost both legs.

Medical director Dr Ahmed Lasu said 13 children had been rushed to the hospital, of whom two were dead on arrival.

Owo is located in Ondo State in southwest Nigeria, a part of the country that does not usually experience violent conflict over religion.

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