ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) – When attackers opened fire on worshipers at a Catholic church in southwest Nigeria, other gunmen waited outside to kill those trying to escape, church officials and witnesses said Monday.
At least 50 people, including children, were killed in the attack, according to a state representative from the area.
Worshipers had just arrived for Pentecost Sunday mass when shots erupted at St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state, said Bishop Jude Arogundade of Ondo Catholic Diocese.
Steven Omotayo, who lives near the church, rushed to the scene when he heard the gunshots.
“I saw a lot of dead bodies — both young and old, even children,” he said. “People came in and started shooting from the gate.”
He said the church has three entrances and the main entrance was said to have been locked, making it difficult for many to escape.
“They just shot. If they see someone trying to flee or get up, they’ll just shoot that person,” he said. “Everyone standing was bombarded with bullets.”
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 been battling an Islamic insurgency for more than 13 years, Ondo State has long been recognized as one of the country’s most peaceful states.
Hospital workers struggled to treat numerous wounded after the attack. The Nigerian Medical Association in Ondo State ordered all available doctors to go to hospitals to offer care to dozens of seriously injured people.
“Eventually even our blood bank ran out and we had to ask for blood,” said a doctor at the Owo Federal Hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.
“Even as a doctor, I have tended to many injured people, but what I saw yesterday was far beyond what I have seen before in my life and practice.”
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