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AFRICA > At least three killed in Nigeria church attacks

JOS, Nigeria - The Associated press

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Nigerians gather around a vehicle shortly after it exploded following a suicide bomb attack in a church compound in Bauchi, Nigeria, 03 June 2012. EPA photo

Nigerians gather around a vehicle shortly after it exploded following a suicide bomb attack in a church compound in Bauchi, Nigeria, 03 June 2012. EPA photo

A suicide car bomber detonated his explosives today outside a church in central Nigeria as gunmen attacked another church in the nation's northeast, killing at least three people and wounding dozens of others in the latest religious violence in a country under increasing assault by a radical Islamist sect, witnesses said.

In Jos, a city on the uneasy dividing line between Nigeria's largely Muslim north and Christian south, the suicide car bomber drove into the compound of the Evangelical Church Winning All chapel in the city, said Mark Lipdo, who runs a Christian advocacy group called the Stefanos Foundation. The explosion killed two worshippers and the suicide bomber, while wounding more than 40 others, a senior police officer at the scene told The Associated Press. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity as the information was not to be immediately released to journalists.

The officer warned others likely could die as they suffered grave injuries.

Meanwhile in Biu, a city in northeast Nigeria's Borno state, gunmen opened fire during a service at an EYN church, an acronym that means "Church of the Brethen in Nigeria" in the local Hausa language of Nigeria's north, witnesses said. An usher at the church was killed while others were injured, said the Rev. Samson Bukar, a local Christian leader.

Borno state police commissioner Bala Hassan confirmed the attack took place and said officers were investigating.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. Nigeria faces a growing wave of sectarian violence carried out by a sect known as Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in Hausa. Boko Haram has been blamed for killing more than 560 people this year alone, according to an Associated Press count. The sect's targets have included churches, police stations and other security buildings, often attacked by suicide car bombers across northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram, which speaks to journalists through telephone conference calls at times of its choosing, could not be immediately reached for comment Sunday. The sect most recently claimed responsibility for the drive-by killing Tuesday of a retired deputy inspector-general of police and two other officers in Nigeria's largest northern city of Kano.

Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people, is divided between a largely Muslim north and Christian south. Boko Haram attacks have inflamed tensions between the two religions, though many in the faiths live peacefully with each other and intermarry in Africa's most populous nation.

In Jos, a city in Nigeria's fertile central belt, religious rioting and violence has killed thousands in the last decade. However, the attacks often take root in political and economic disputes between the many ethnic groups living in the region.

June/10/2012

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