10 people killed, 145 injured, in Nigeria church bombing
A suicide attacker drove a car bomb into a Nigerian church on Sunday, sparking fierce reprisals which led a Christian mob to burn a man alive in a day of violence that killed at least 10 people and wounded 145.
The church attack left at least seven people dead in addition to the bomber, while at least three people were killed in reprisal violence, a rescue official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to provide figures.
According to Musa Ilallah, regional coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency, the number of wounded was 145.
Christian youths took to the streets of the northern city of Kaduna with knives and sticks after the blast, targeting those they believed to be Muslims as anger again boiled over due to repeated church bombings in recent months.
Attackers beat a motorcycle taxi driver near the church, then put his bike on top of him before drenching him with petrol and setting him on fire, an AFP correspondent who saw the violence said. Two other bloodied bodies apparently killed by the mob were seen near the church.
The mob also attacked an ambulance in the ensuing violence, but there was no indication that rescuers were wounded.
A rescue official on condition of anonymity also spoke of the man being burnt and said rescuers could not save him because the mob was too violent.
President Good luck Jonathan condemned the church attack and vowed a strengthened fight against what he called “acts of terror” in a statement that made no specific mention of reprisals.
“Our efforts to deal with all acts of terror and violence would only be redoubled even as the security agencies continue to receive all the support they need from government to reverse this unfortunate and unacceptable trend that threatens the peace and stability of our nation,” Jonathan said in a statement.
The attacker rammed what residents said was an SUV into St. Rita church, shaking the Malali neighborhood of Kaduna, a city that has suffered a wave of deadly violence blamed on Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.
“All of a sudden it drove on high speed and rammed into the church wall, forcing its way into the church premises,” said witness Samuel Emmanuel.
“Initially I thought the driver had lost control of the vehicle. Suddenly there was a huge explosion as the car reached the church building. It was dust, fire and smoke all over.”
A spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency confirmed the bomb attack and said rescuers had been rushed to the scene. The Red Cross also helped evacuate victims and assisted in treating them.
A Kaduna-based rights activist, Shehu Sani, issued a statement after Sunday's violence saying “our churches and mosques have now become a hostile arena for deranged and murderous psychopaths. The government of Nigeria must wake up and live up to its duties and constitutional responsibilities,” he said. “We must find a lasting solution to this carnage and arbitrariness.”
An AFP correspondent said mobs were yelling “Why the church?” and some were carrying weapons, including machetes. Local elders were seeking to restore calm, while soldiers arrived on the scene and were working to bring order.
The attack came after Friday's Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, but it was not clear if there was any link.
In June, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for three suicide attacks on churches in Kaduna state, where the city of Kaduna is located, which led to deadly rioting. Dozens of people were killed in the violence.
Boko Haram's insurgency in northern and central Nigeria has led to more than 2,800 deaths since 2009, including killings by the security forces.
While Muslims have often been its victims, it has in recent months also specifically targeted churches.
Jonathan has said the group is seeking to incite a religious crisis in Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
Kaduna is a large, mainly Muslim city in Nigeria's north and includes a sizeable Christian population.
Nigerians have grown increasingly frustrated with security forces' inability to stop Boko Haram attacks, and there have been warnings of more reprisals if the violence continued.
Some Evangelical church leaders in Nigeria have said Christians may be forced to defend themselves if something is not done to address the unrest.