ABUJA - Five bombs exploded on Christmas Day at churches in Nigeria, one
killing at least 27 people, raising fears that Islamist militant group
Boko Haram - which claimed responsibility - is trying to ignite
sectarian civil war.
Boko Haram, which wants to impose Islamic
sharia law across a country of 160 million split roughly between
Christians and Muslims, has increased the sophistication of the
explosives it uses this year and has increased the number of its
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St Theresa's Catholic Church in Madala, an Abuja
satellite town about 40 km from the center of the capital, was packed
when the bomb exploded just outside.
"We were in the church with
my family when we heard the explosion. I just ran out," Timothy
Onyekwere told Reuters. "Now I don't even know where my children or my
wife are. I don't know how many were killed but there were many dead."
Haram - which in the Hausa language spoken in northern Nigeria means
"Western education is sinful" - is loosely modeled on the Taliban
movement in Afghanistan.
The group's low level insurgency used to
be largely confined to northeastern Nigeria, but it has struck several
parts of the north, center and the capital Abuja this year.
sect was blamed for dozens of bombings and shootings in the north, and
has claimed responsibility for two bombings in Abuja this year,
including Nigeria's first suicide bombing on the UN headquarters in
August that killed at least 23 people.
Rights groups say more than 250 people have been killed by Boko Haram since July 2010.
after the first bomb, blasts were reported at the Mountain of Fire and
Miracles Church in the central, ethnically and religiously mixed town of
Jos, and at a church in northern Yobe state at the town of Gadaka.
Residents said many were wounded in Gadaka, but there were no further
A Reuters reporter on the scene of the explosion close
to Abuja saw the church's front roof had been destroyed in the blast, as
had several houses near it. Five burnt out cars were still smoldering.
officials who counted told me they have picked 27 bodies so far,"
Father Christopher Barde, Assistant Catholic Priest of the church, said.
There were scenes of chaos after the incident.
just ended and people were rushing out of the church and suddenly I
heard a loud sound 'gbam'. Cars were in flames and bodies littered
everywhere," Nnana Nwachukwu told Reuters.
"The blast occurred on
the road by the church and not inside the church. I happen to also live
close by the church. Help was very slow in coming to the injured."
later blast in Jos, a tinderbox of ethnic and sectarian tensions that
sometimes sees deadly clashes between Muslims and Christians, was
accompanied by a shooting spree by militants, who exchanged fire with
local police, said Charles Ezeocha, special taskforce spokesman for Jos.
lost one policeman and we have made four arrests. I think we can use
them to get more information and work on that," he said.
Police found four other explosive devices in Jos, which they deactivated, he said.
Christmas Eve, a series of bomb blasts around Jos killed 32 people, and
others people died in attacks on two churches in the northeast of
Africa's most populous nation.
Residents of the northeastern city
of Damaturu also reported two blasts. A local security source, who
could not be named, said the militants tried to hit the State Security
Service local office but their bombs went off before they could reach
President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south who
is struggling to contain the threat of Islamist militancy, called the
incident "unfortunate" but said Boko Haram would "not be (around) for
ever. It will end one day."