There was pandemonium on Sunday at St Francis Catholic Church, Owa-luwa Street, in Owo town, Nigeria, headquarters of Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State as some terrorists attacked the church during a Mass service. Owo is the hometown of the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu.
It was gathered that no fewer than 40 worshippers, mostly children and women were feared killed as a result of the terror attack.
HowAfrica also learnt that the church is less than 200 metres away from the palace of the Olowo of Owo.
A viral 37-second video circulating online shows bodies of some worshippers lying on the floor of the church in the pool of their blood.
A health worker on duty at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, where the casualties were taken to said over 50 people had been brought to the hospital, saying many were dead already while others were still alive.
He said , “They are still bringing people to the hospital. Some have been confirmed dead while others are still breathing. But for now, I can’t specify the number of those died.
A nurse at St. Louis Hospital, Owo, on condition of anonymity confirmed that many casualties were brought to the hospital and he was able to count 12 that were dead on arrival.
“A lot of casualties have been brought here but I can count 12 now that had passed away but we are still trying to save the lives of the remaining, he said.”
A palace source who spoke on condition of anonymity told our correspondent that the whole area was enveloped with tension and panic.
According to him, “The church that was attacked was at the back of the palace and we are still wondering how gunmen could carry out such an attack at the central eye of the town. This is unbelievable. Kabiyesi will soon issue a statement on the incident.
Confirming the incident, the Police Public Relations Officer , Mrs Funmilayo Odunlami, said the command had yet to ascertain the cause of the attack and the number of casualties.
“The Commissioner of Police is on his way to the scene to ascertain the cause of the incident. We have been hearing so many things about it but I will get back to you, she promised.”
Also, the Ondo State Police Command posted on its Twitter handle page saying, “The Ondo State Police Command is aware of the attack at Owo. We will give you the full details of the incident later. We want to implore the people of the state to be calm as all security apparatus is currently active to ensure peace in this area.
“The CP has deployed the anti-bomb squad at the scene and efforts are being intensified to arrest the perpetrators.”
A resident of the area who identified himself as Olabamiji said the attack was carried out by some gunmen, who disguised to join the church to worship during the morning Mass but later opened fire at the worshippers. He added that the terrorists threw dynamites inside the church.
“We saw them, they didn’t cover their faces. Initially, we thought they were going into the church for the service not knowing that they were gunmen. Suddenly, we heard gunshots; they directed the guns at anyone on sight, particularly women and children.
“During the period the attack lasted, we did not see any security operative to confront the attackers. We could not even count their number because everybody ran for safety. This is very unfortunate. The attackers fled immediately after they were done and they were not checked.”