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What we know about the deadly church shooting in Nigeria


What do investigators know about a mass shooting in Nigeria? It happened in Africa's most populous country, where people practice many faiths, including the Catholicism of the church that gunmen targeted on Sunday. There is no official death toll, but local residents believe more than 50 people were killed. Chinedu Asadu is an Associated Press correspondent in Nigeria. He's on the line. Welcome.


INSKEEP: How did this attack unfold?

ASADU: So the attack started on Sunday around 11:30, just as the worshippers at the church were rounding up service to leave for their various houses. They sneaked into the church, according to what the police commissioner told me, and they opened fire at everyone that's still standing. So most of those killed were even those trying to escape. And that's - that lasted for about 30 minutes.

INSKEEP: Has anyone claimed responsibility?

ASADU: No group has claimed responsibility yet, and the police are yet to offer any leads as to who they are or any identity so far, from what they found out.

INSKEEP: Does this fit into any pattern in Nigeria of religious violence or other kinds of violence?

ASADU: So, so far, it's - from what we've heard from locals there, the community, it's relatively one of Nigeria's most peaceful areas because the country has been, you know, battling with lots of armed groups in parts of the country. But now this community is also one of those that has been caught up in Nigeria's pastoral conflict that has been plaguing the country for many years.

INSKEEP: You said Nigeria's pastoral conflict. What is that?

ASADU: So the country has had yearslong conflict between farmers and herders because of limited resources, you know, of water and land.

INSKEEP: So the pastoral conflict is a conflict between farmers who want to till the land and herders who want to grow livestock on the land. That's the dispute.

ASADU: Exactly. Exactly, yeah.

INSKEEP: How has this affected the community?

ASADU: So the community is still in shock two days after the attack because, like I said, Ondo state is relatively one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria. Nigeria has had its, you know, security crises in virtually all parts of the country. You have separatists in the southeast. You have militants. But Ondo is relatively peaceful. So it was also the element of surprise that these attackers took advantage of, knowing that the community is relaxed. When you speak to local authorities there, they say that they are still in shock, that they never expected this could happen, and also because you've not seen this kind of attack on a church for many years in Nigeria. The last time you had attacks like this was years ago when we had, you know, the Boko Haram insurgency operating in the northeast...


ASADU: ...You know, targeting churches. That was, like, about 10 years ago. So because this is also not a very common incident and because the targeted area is known to be one of the most peaceful parts of the country, so they are shocked. People are still mourning, and the sadness is really deep.

INSKEEP: Chinedu Asadu of the Associated Press. Thank you so much.

ASADU: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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