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Police recover explosives following massacre in Nigerian Catholic church

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Survivors of an attack by unknown assailants on a Catholic church in Nigeria lay weeping and writhing in pain at a local hospital on Monday after suffering what a doctor described as lacerations, bullet wounds and blast injuries.

At least 50 people including children were killed, according to media reports, during the attack on St. Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo, which took place during Sunday mass as worshippers were celebrating the Christian holiday of Pentecost.

Police, who have yet to release a death toll, said they had recovered unexploded improvised explosive devices and shells from AK-47 ammunition.

“Some of the gunmen disguised as congregants, while other armed men who had positioned themselves around the church premises from different directions, fired into the church,” national police spokesman Olumuyiwa Adejobi said in a statement.

He said a vehicle used by the assailants to escape had been recovered. Its owner was helping with investigations.

Inside the church, streaks of blood on the floors and walls, a broken lectern and pew, plaster debris and abandoned items including shoes and a well-thumbed Bible covered in shards of glass bore witness to the intensity of the violence.

“Immediately they entered and started firing everywhere, so many people,” said Alex Michael, who was shot in the leg while protecting his children by hiding them under chairs. He appeared dazed as he sat on his hospital bed.

Other survivors had limbs wrapped in bloodstained bandages. One man writhed and moaned on his bed while a woman wept as she embraced her brother. A 15-year-old victim lay silently with a drip in his hand.

Dr Samuel Aluko, a registrar at the hospital, said 27 adult victims were receiving treatment for a wide range of injuries, some life-threatening. One woman lost both legs.

Medical director Dr Ahmed Lasu said 13 children had been rushed to the hospital. Two were dead on arrival.