More than 50 people are reportedly dead and dozens more are injured following a "vile and satanic" attack on a Catholic church in Nigeria, according to multiple reports coming out of the West African country.
The unprovoked massacre occurred at approximately 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning at St. Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo in Ondo state, roughly 200 miles from the Nigerian capital of Abuja, ABC News reported on Monday,
Parishioners were at the church for a Pentecost worship service when a group of yet unidentified assailants abruptly set off explosives and rushed into the building with guns. At least four of the attackers reportedly opened fire inside the building, striking men, women, and children, while others shot at churchgoers outside.
Attackers used the element of surprise to carry out the massacre in the relatively peaceful town, the Associated Press reported. Within 30 minutes, the assailants conducted the carnage and escaped the scene.
The attack left streaks of blood on the church's walls and floors surrounding shards of glass and broken pews and lecterns, according to Reuters. Bloodied parishioners covered the floor as emergency medical responders rushed to the scene and desperately began treating the wounded.
Authorities have yet to announce the official death and casualty toll, but media outlets are reporting both figures are in the dozens. In a statement, the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria claimed that "more than 50 parishioners" had perished.
As of Monday, no person or group had claimed responsibility for the killings, but many believe it was a coordinated terrorist attack.
"The attack is undoubtedly terrorist in nature, and the scale and brutality suggests it was carefully planned rather than impulsive," Eric Humphery-Smith, a senior Africa analyst, told the AP.
The news agency noted that the West African nation, the continent's most populous, has been plagued by violence from various armed extremist groups for more than a decade — including the jihadist group Boko Haram and its offshoot the Islamic State West Africa Province.
Following the tragedy, Ondo state Gov. Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu reportedly said in a statement, "The vile and satanic attack is a calculated assault on the peace-loving people of Owo Kingdom who have enjoyed relative peace over the years. We shall commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay."
Nigeria's president, Muhammadu Buhari, also condemned "the heinous killing of worshippers," adding, "No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome light."