Video and Images from Nigeria’s Christmas attacks
At least 25 people have been killed by an explosion outside a church near the Nigerian capital during Christmas celebrations, according to a relief worker.
Witnesses have also reported a string of other attacks, including a bomb and gun attack in the central town of Jos, two explosions in Damaturu and one in the town of Gadaka.
Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from the scene of the first attack in the town of Madalla, said the attacker used an improvised explosive device after failing to gain access to the church on Sunday morning.
A relief worker told Idris at least 25 bodies were removed from the carnage. The source added that six of the bodies had been mutilated.
“I am standing near a huge crater left in the road. The damage to structures and buildings can be seen from 150m away. The church and surrounding shops and homes were also damaged,” said Idris.
“At least eight cars and two motorcycles were burnt beyond recognition.”
The explosion at St Theresa Church on Christmas morning was confirmed by Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency of the blast in the Madalla area.
An explosion ripped through a Catholic church during Christmas Mass near Nigeria’s capital today killing at least 27 people.
A radical Muslim sect claimed responsibility for the attack and a second bomb blast near a church in city of Jos, as explosions also struck the nation’s north east.
The Christmas Day attacks show the growing national ambition of the sect known as Boko Haram, which is responsible for at least 495 killings this year alone.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague took time out of his Christmas celebrations to condemn the bomb attacks today.
‘These are cowardly attacks on families gathered in peace and prayer to celebrate a day which symbolises harmony and goodwill towards others.
‘I offer my condolences to the bereaved and injured,’ he said.
The Vatican has also denounced the attacks as a sign of ‘cruelty and absurd, blind hatred’ that shows no respect for human life.
The assaults come a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded.
The first explosion on Sunday struck St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, a town in Niger state close to the capital, Abuja.
Rescue workers recovered at least 27 bodies from the church and officials continued to tally those wounded in various hospitals, said Slaku Luguard, a coordinator with Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Shortage of help: A victim is tended to by medics in an ambulance, but there weren’t enough ambulances to deal with the crisis in Abuja
His agency already has acknowledged it didn’t have enough ambulances immediately on hand to help the wounded. Luguard also said an angry crowd that gathered at the blast site hampered rescue efforts as they refused to allow workers inside.
‘We’re trying to calm the situation,’ said Luguard.
‘There are some angry people around trying to cause problems.’
In Jos, a second explosion struck near the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church, government spokesman Pam Ayuba said.
Ayuba said gunmen later opened fire on police guarding the area, killing one police officer. Two other locally made explosives were found in a nearby building and disarmed, he said.
‘The military are here on the ground and have taken control over the entire place,’ said Ayuba.
The city of Jos is located on the dividing line between Nigeria’s predominantly Christian south and Muslim north. Thousands have died in communal clashes there over the last decade.
After the bombings, a Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa, claimed responsibility for the attacks in an interview with The Daily Trust, the newspaper of record across Nigeria’s Muslim north.
The sect has used the newspaper in the past to communicate with public.
The U.S. Embassy in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja had issued a warning Friday to citizens to be ‘particularly vigilant’ around churches, large crowds and areas where foreigners congregate.
Several days of fighting in and around the north-eastern city of Damaturu between the sect and security forces already had killed at least 61 people, authorities said.
On Sunday, local police commissioner Tanko Lawan said several explosions had struck Damaturu, including a suicide car bombing.
Lawan said that the blasts happened around noon, targeting the headquarters of Nigeria’s secret police, the State Security Service, in the area.
The State Security Service later issued a statement saying the bomber targeted a senior military commander and killed three officers in the attack.
In the last year, Boko Haram has carried out increasingly bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a November 4 attack on Damaturu, Yobe state’s capital, that killed more than 100 people. The group also claimed responsibility for the August 24 suicide car bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Nigeria’s capital that killed 24 people and wounded 116 others.
The sect came to national prominence in 2009, when its members rioted and burned police stations near its base of Maiduguri, a dusty north-eastern city on the cusp of the Sahara Desert.
Emergency attention: Medical officials try to treat one of the victims of the bomb blast in Abuja
Mob: The Reverend Issac Achi (right) tries to control angry crowds which gathered at the site of the bomb blast at St Theresa’s
Nigeria’s military violently put down the attack, crushing the sect’s mosque into shards as its leader was arrested and died in police custody. About 700 people died during the violence.
While initially targeting enemies via hit-and-run assassinations from the back of motorbikes after the 2009 riot, violence by Boko Haram now has a new sophistication and apparent planning that includes high-profile attacks with greater casualties.
Boko Haram has splintered into three factions, with one wing increasingly willing to kill as it maintains contact with terror groups in North Africa and Somalia, diplomats and security sources say.
Sect members are scattered throughout northern Nigeria and nearby Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Boko Haram – which in the Hausa language spoken in northern Nigeria means ‘Western education is sinful’ – is loosely modelled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.
- Nigeria church bomb on Christmas: 25 bodies recovered (indepthafrica.com)