VICTIMS of an attack on a Catholic church in Nigeria suffered lacerations, bullet wounds and blast injuries, a doctor at the local hospital said on Monday, suggesting a range of weapons were used by the unknown assailants.
At least 50 people including children were killed during the attack on St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo, which took place during Sunday mass, according to media reports. Police have yet to release a death toll.
Dr Samuel Aluko, a registrar at the hospital, said 27 adult victims were receiving treatment in his department, some for life-threatening injuries. He said one woman had lost both legs.
Children were being treated elsewhere in the hospital but he had no information about them.
Owo is located in Ondo State in southwest Nigeria, a part of the country that does not usually experience violent conflict over religion. Authorities have not given any information about who carried out Sunday’s atrocity and why.
The town was quiet on Monday, with many shops remaining closed. Security forces were visible on the streets, and helicopters passed overhead.
Nigeria has severe problems with violence and criminality in several regions, including Islamist insurgencies in the northeast, mass abductions for ransom in the northwest and crude oil smuggling in the far south. The Owo massacre did not fit into any of the common categories.
The southwest is home to the Yoruba ethnic group, who are divided roughly equally between Muslims and Christians. The two communities usually cohabit peacefully.
An Owo resident said some local people were blaming the church massacre on members of the Hausa-Fulani ethnic group, who are predominantly Muslim and live mostly in northern Nigeria, with communities in other regions. However, there was no official confirmation of this rumour.
The resident, who did not wish to be named because of safety fears, said some local youths had wanted to launch a reprisal attack against Hausa-Fulani residents, but elders had managed to calm them down.
Pope Francis and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari were among those who expressed horror at news of the massacre.
Other parts of Nigeria have experienced repeated outbreaks of violence between Muslims and Christians, including killings in churches and mosques.
Human rights groups who have investigated such incidents in depth have often found underlying factors other than religion, such as conflicts between farmers and herders that overlap with ethnic and religious divides.