Gunmen have killed church worshippers in Ondo state, southwest Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
He added that “only fiends from the nether region” could have done this.
The armed men entered St Francis Catholic church in the town of Owo during a Sunday service. They fired into the congregation and then kidnapped a priest as well as some other churchgoers, witnesses said.
Nigeria has experienced a surge in violence in recent months with kidnappings and attacks reported across the country.
No figures for the numbers killed or abducted in Sunday’s violence have been confirmed.
But a doctor at a local hospital, quoted by the Reuters news agency, said that “several worshippers were brought in dead.” After visiting the church and hospital, state lawmaker Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole told the Associated Press news agency that children were among the dead.
In a series of tweets, Ondo state Governor Rotimi Akeredolu called it a “vile and satanic attack” on innocent people. He appealed for calm, urging people not to take the law into their own hands.
“We shall commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay,” he added.
“No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people,” President Buhari said in a statement. He is in the final year of his two-term presidency and has been criticized for failing to get a grip on the country’s security problems.
No one has said that they were behind this attack, but Nigeria is facing worsening violence by armed groups, says the BBC‘s Chris Ewokor, in the capital, Abuja. But Ondo state has, until now, been relatively untouched.
One week ago, the head of the Methodist Church in Nigeria was abducted along with two other clerics in the southeast of the country.
The Methodist prelate said he paid $240,000 to be freed with his companions.
Two weeks ago, two Catholic priests were kidnapped in Katsina, Buhari’s home state in the north of the country. They have not been released.
In March, gunmen targeted the vital rail link between Abuja and the northern city of Kaduna, killing at least nine people and kidnapping dozens, many of whom are still being held.