Authorities Probe Deadly Nigeria Church Attack   

Authorities in Nigeria’s Ondo state were investigating Monday a day after a deadly attack on a catholic church.

The exact toll from Sunday’s attack at the St. Francis Catholic Church was unclear, with a spokesman for the Ondo State governor’s office telling Agence-France Presse that gunmen killed 21 people, and Reuters citing a doctor in Ondo saying the number of dead was 50.

Hospitals were treating people wounded in the attack, while volunteers launched a blood drive to aid the injured.

Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu vowed to respond to the attack and ordered flags be lowered to honor the victims.

“Those who unleashed this unprovoked terror attack on our people have tested our collective resolves,” Akeredolu tweeted Monday. “We will not be deterred in responding appropriately to this dastardly act.”

The attackers struck as worshippers gathered on Pentecost Sunday, using both guns and explosives.

The Vatican said that Pope Francis “prays for the victims and for the country, painfully attacked at a time of celebration, and he entrusts everyone to the Lord, that God might send His Spirit to console them.”

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack. While much of Nigeria has struggled with security issues, Ondo is widely known as one of Nigeria’s most peaceful states. The state, though, has been caught up in a rising violent conflict between farmers and herders.

“In the history of Owo, we have never experienced such an ugly incident,” said legislator Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole. “This is too much.”

The Christian Association of Nigeria condemned the attack, with spokesman Bayo Oladeji saying, “What happened in Owo today is an unprovoked attack on innocent people worshipping God and to [the] Christian Association of Nigeria, it is condemnable; it is unacceptable. We’re tired of people going to church and being killed.”

Nigeria is currently facing a wave of violence by armed gangs. A week ago, the prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Samuel Kanu Uche, was kidnapped on his way to the airport in southeastern Abia state.

He was released two days later after the church raised about $240,000 and paid the kidnappers.

Timothy Obiezu contributed to this report. Some information also came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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