Gunmen have shot dead at least 19 people in a church in central Nigeria, an army official has said.
Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel Olorunyomi told the AP news agency on Tuesday that the armed men had stormed a church building where worshippers had gathered to pray late on Monday in the town of Otite, near the city of Okene.
He said the pastor was killed and “many” were injured but he could not immediately give a figure because they had been taken to different hospitals.
Authorities are still searching for people who may have run into nearby bushes, he said.
Olorunyomi declined to say who was behind the attack.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from Nigerian capital Abuja, said: “Police in Kogi state where the attack occurred have confirmed that it was carried out by two gunmen who walked into the church and opened fire on the worshipers.”
“The attack occurs just 24 hours after 17 people were arrested with 34 explosive devices,” he said.
Adow said that no one has claimed responsibility but the statement by regional government said it was carried out by what it called “terrorists”.
“Attacks on places of worship have been on the increase in Nigeria. Authorities say that aim of those who are carrying out the attacks might be to divide Muslims and Christians even more. The two communities have not enjoyed a great relationship in the past,” the Al Jazeera correspondent said.