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Sunday 25 December 2011

Nigeria churches hit by blasts during Christmas prayers

Nigeria churches hit by blasts during Christmas prayers


Bomb blasts targeting Christmas Day church services in two Nigerian cities have killed at least 26 people.
Some 25 people died and more were hurt in an attack at St Theresa's Church in Madalla near Nigeria's capital Abuja.
The Islamist group Boko Haram said it carried out the attack, which came amid deadly violence between Islamist gunmen and soldiers in northern Nigeria.
A second explosion shortly afterwards hit a church in the central city of Jos, killing at least one person.
Nearly 70 people have died in days of fighting between Nigerian forces and suspected Islamist gunmen in the country's north-east, but the BBC's Fidelis Mbah in Lagos says no trouble had been expected in the capital.
Boko Haram - whose name means "Western education is forbidden" - often targets security forces and state institutions.
The group carried out an August 2011 suicide attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja, in which more than 20 people were killed.
An unconfirmed report quoting local police said two explosions had hit the northern town of Damaturu, epicentre of the violence between security forces and Boko Haram militants earlier in the week.
Emergency workers 'attacked' National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) spokesman Yushau Shuaibu told the BBC that the latest Abuja explosion had happened in the street outside the church.
He said the church - which can hold up to 1,000 people - had been badly affected by the blast, and the number of dead was likely to rise.
Witnesses said windows of nearby houses had been shattered by the explosion. Unconfirmed reports say that emergency responders have been attacked by groups of stone-throwing youths.
Officials at the local hospital said the condition of many of the injured was serious, and they were seeking help from bigger medical facilities.
Businessman Munir Nasidi was in a hotel opposite the church when the blast occurred.
He told the BBC: "When I came out of the hotel, people were running around. Everyone was crying. They were bringing out casualties. Nobody was getting near the building as there was a fire."
BBC Africa editor Martin Plaut says that the attack in Jos, in Plateau state - which killed at least one policeman and destroyed three vehicles - could have even more serious consequences than the attack in Abuja.
The state lies in Nigeria's so-called Middle Belt, between the mainly Muslim north and Christian south.
More than 1,000 have been killed in religious and ethnic violence in Jos over the past two years and our correspondent says there will be fears that the latest attack could spark wider conflict.
A string of bomb blasts in Jos on Christmas Eve 2010 were claimed by Boko Haram.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi condemned the latest attacks as blind, absurd "terrorist violence" that enflames hate.
"We are close to the suffering of the Nigerian Church and the entire Nigerian people so tried by terrorist violence, even in these days that should be of joy and peace," Lombardi was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

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