Police in southwestern Nigeria are investigating a massacre at a Catholic church Sunday at least 50 people dead, according to media reports. Meanwhile, residents in the city of Owo have organized a blood drive to help the many people who were injured in the attack.
Ondo state resident Sunday Ajibola said he barely got any sleep and was up early Monday to continue his plea for blood donations at the Federal Medical Center in Owo, southwest Nigeria.
The hospital is one of three that Ajibola says are collecting blood for people wounded in Sunday’s shooting at St. Francis Catholic Church.
Ajibola called for donations on social media soon after Sunday’s attack and is helping to organize the blood drive.
He said he gives donors directions and sometimes has to pick them up and take them to the hospital. He said there are about three hospitals in Owo that are searching for blood.
“The hospital is trying their best, but there’s a shortage of blood, so we’re trying to encourage people to donate,” Ajibola said.
“That’s what we’re doing. There are a lot of people that are wounded — kids, grown adults and so on.”
Ajibola could not say how many victims they were trying to save but described the situation as overwhelming.
A spokesperson from the local governor’s office, Richard Olatunde, told French news agency Agence France-Presse Monday that the attackers killed 21 people and injured others. However, media reports from Owo Monday quoted hospital staff as saying at least 50 were killed.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Residents initially blamed pastoralists who have come into conflict with local farmers. But on Monday, Muslim rights group MURIC said elements of Boko Haram were responsible for the attack.
Ishaq Akintola, director of MURIC, said the organization believes it was the Boko Haram because people were kidnapped after the bombing.
“Their attacks are always ferocious, very violent, because they want to instill fear in their victims,” Akintola said. “Boko Haram had penetrated states like Niger state and Kwara. And Kwara is very close to Ondo state.”
The attack triggered widespread condemnations from state authorities and the national government, including President Muhammadu Buhari, who described it as “heinous.”
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) also condemned the attack. The Vatican Monday said Pope Francis was praying for the victims.
Nigeria is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and a wave of criminal activity, especially kidnappings for ransom, mostly in the northwest.
In recent months, authorities have raised concerns that violence would spread to other parts of the country, but Ondo state was never one of the areas of concern.