ABUJA. Nigeria -- Two infants were among 22 worshippers who were killed in an attack at a church in southwestern Nigeria, according to an emergency official. The attack shocked the West African nation. The official said Tuesday to The Associated Press.
According to Kadiri Olanrewaju (head of Nigeria's National Emergency Management Services, Ondo), the dead were taken to the morgue, while 50 people who sustained injuries at the St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo, have still been treated in hospital.
It is unknown how many people were killed as some of them were taken home by relatives for private burials. Residents said this.
"It's only the people at the hospital morgue that you are giving me, not those in the church who were taken home for burial. Olanrewaju, an emergency response service official, said that he didn't have such a record.
Adelegbe Timileyin and Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole, who represent Owo in Owo at both the federal and state legislative houses, earlier told AP that over 50 people were killed in the attack.
Nigeria, Africa's largest country, is home to 206 million people. It has been struggling for over a decade with an Islamic extremist rebel group, Boko Haram, and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province, insurgents in the northeast. As separatists and pirates are blamed in attacks on the country's southern region, while militant groups regularly launch deadly attacks in its northwest, the country is now facing growing insecurity.
Residents reported that schools and public gathering places were closed Tuesday, while many residents chose to stay at home.
According to a spokeswoman, the Ondo Police Command has yet not made any arrests or confirmed the identities the attackers. One spokesperson said that they were at least five.
Odunlami Funmilayo, a police spokesperson, stated that they could only confirm the explosives used. She also said that three undetonated IEDs (improvised explosion devices) were found at the scene.
According to police, the attackers "snuck into" the church premises. The police said that some of the attackers were disguised as congregants, while others were armed men who positioned themselves from different directions around the church premises and fired into it.
The attackers opened fire just as the Pentecost Mass was about to end, said survivors.
Sunday Adewale, who works at the palace of the chief, said that there was no threat or warning and the place had been peaceful. "They looked for people's soft spots when people are relaxed."