A suicide car bomber detonated his explosives during a worship service of a large evangelical church in Nigeria’s restive city of Jos early Sunday, February 26, killing himself and a father and child, government and church officials said.
Plateau State spokesman Pam Ayuba said others were injured in the Sunday blast, which was believed to have been carried out by the radical Islamic group Boko Haram.
Church workers and witnesses said a car forced its way through the gate during an early morning service. “We were in the church during the time of worship and a suicide bomber forced himself into through the gate, into the church and the bomb exploded,” John Haruna, the reverend of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), told French news agency AFP.
Another church member who is also an activist with the Christian human rights organisation Stefanos Foundation gave a similar account.
“It was suicide bomber, he drove his car into the church, approaching the pulpit and it exploded. Three members of the church died and 10 are injured,” Mark Lipdo, reportedly said.
He said pieces of human flesh littered the church premises.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the explosion, but the hard-line Islamist group Boko Haram, or ‘Western education is a sin’, has claimed previous bomb attacks in Jos, including on Christmas Eve, killing up to 80 people
Friday’s attack came a day after a series of bomb blasts and shootings in northern Nigeria killed at least 17 people, including five Muslim worshippers.
Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for one of the deadliest attacks in Nigeria’s Kano state last month that killed 185 people. It also admitted to killing at least 44 people in a Christmas Day bombing at a Catholic church outside Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
Following the Christmas violence, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in areas hard hit by violence blamed on Boko Haram. Jonathan said the measure impacted parts of Yobe and Borno states in the northeast, Plateau state in central Nigeria, and Niger state in the east.
He made clear at the time that the temporary closure of borders in those areas was necessary to address security challenges and restore normalcy to the country.
The opposition has criticized the Jonathan administration for allegedly failing to control Boko Haram. The group has made clear it wants to establish a state based on strict Sharia, or Islamic, law and earlier ordered all Christians to leave northern Nigeria.
CIVIL UNREST FEARS
Nigeria’s over 160 million people are divided almost in half between Muslims living mainly in the north and Christians in the south, according to several estimates.
There have been fears of civil unrest in a region where religious and ethnic violence have seen hundreds die, including many Christians, as well as Muslims.
Advocacy group Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 1,000 people were killed in communal clashes around the site of Sunday’s attack, Jos, in 2010. (BosNewLife Feb 2012)