Reuters is reporting that gunmen stormed a Catholic mass in southwest Nigeria on Sunday in a devastating attack that left at least 50 dead, many of them children. The police spokesperson for Ondo state, Funmilayo Ibukun Odunlami, says the shooters started firing outside the church before making their way inside and opening fire on the congregation during the service.
Ondo state Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu visited the scene of the shooting and met with hospitalized victims. He called the scene a “great massacre,” according to Reuters. Likewise, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called the attack “heinous.”
“It is so sad that while the Holy Mass was going on, unknown gunmen attacked St. Francis Catholic Church,” said Nigeria’s Catholic Church spokesman Reverend Augustine Ikwu. He mourned that the attack left “many feared dead and many others injured and the Church violated.”
As of this writing, the identity and motives of the gunmen is unknown. While attacks from Muslim extremists have spiked in northern Nigeria in recent years, such attacks are very rare in the nation’s southern region.