More than 80 people are feared to have died in Sunday’s attack on a church in southwestern Nigeria, sources told ABC News on Wednesday.
A source with direct knowledge of the investigation said the bodies of 82 victims were in a local morgue. Another source briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence assessment said the estimate was over 80. Both sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they didn’t have authorization to speak to the press about the ongoing probe. A spokesperson for the Nigeria Police Force, which is leading the investigation, told ABC News on Wednesday that the probe is ongoing and they can not confirm the death toll at this time.
Richard Olatunde, a spokesperson for the Ondo state governor, told ABC News on Wednesday that the casualty count was 40 people dead and 86 wounded, including 61 who were still hospitalized. However, those numbers are likely an underestimate.
The bloodshed occurred at St. Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo in Ondo state, more than 200 miles northwest of Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, and over 200 miles southwest of Abuja, the Nigerian capital. The church was holding a service for Pentecost Sunday, a Christian holiday celebrated on the 50th day after Easter, when suddenly explosives detonated and gunshots rang out at around 11:30 a.m. local time, according to police.
Several gunmen who were disguised as congregants were inside the church and opened fire at worshippers, police said, while other armed men who had positioned themselves around the church fired into the building from different directions and at worshippers as they tried to escape.
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SOURCE: ABC News, James Bwala, Josh Margolin, and Morgan Winsor