A police crime scene tape is seen in front of St. Francis Catholic Church where gunmen attacked worshippers during a Sunday mass service in Owo, Ondo, Nigeria. Interior ministry believes Iswap was behind attack in Ondo state on Sunday that killed 40 people.
Nigerian authorities suspect the insurgent group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) carried out a massacre in a Catholic church on Sunday in which 40 people were killed, Interior Minister Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola said on Thursday.
Assailants wielding AK-47 rifles and explosives attacked the congregation at St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, in southwestern Ondo State, during Pentecost mass on Sunday, leaving behind a scene of carnage as they escaped.
Nigeria’s National Security Council said on Thursday that the attack was the work of the Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap) group, apparently reinforcing fears that the militants, who have been restricted to the north-east for many years, are looking to expand their influence and reach to other parts of the country. Ondo, in the south-west, has long been considered one of the safer parts of the country.
Nevertheless, some analysts have counselled caution, noting the absence of any claim of responsibility from Iswap.
“Iswap always claim big attacks, and always ones in the south,” said Vincent Foucher, a research fellow at the CNRS (National Centre of Scientific Research) in Paris. “They want to show they are strong and even expanding so they definitely would claim this one.”