Nigeria — Bomb attacks on churches during Christmas services and a suicide blast killed at least 35 people in Nigeria on Sunday amid spiralling violence claimed by Islamists.
A purported spokesman for Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a bombing of the church outside the Nigerian capital and other violence which stoked fear and anger in Africa’s most populous nation.
Authorities have been seemingly unable to stop the attacks despite heavy-handed military crackdowns and claims of arrests of Boko Haram members.
One attack on Sunday saw a suicide bomber seek to ram a military convoy in front of a secret police building in the northeastern city of Damaturu, killing the bomber and three security agents.
The church blast outside the capital Abuja killed at least 30 people and degenerated into chaos after the explosion, with angry youths starting fires and threatening to attack a nearby police station.
Police shot into the air to disperse them and closed a major highway. Emergency officials called for more ambulances as rescuers sought to evacuate the dead and wounded, and calm later returned to the area.
In a swift response, a Vatican spokesman condemned that attack as an act of “blind hatred” which sought “to arouse and feed even more hatred and confusion.”
Britain condemned the “cowardly” attacks, with Foreign Secretary William Hague offering “condolences to the bereaved and injured.”
France, Italy and Germany also slammed the blasts.
Other attacks included a bomb blast outside an evangelical church in the central city of Jos, that killed a policeman, according to a spokesman for the governor.
Another explosion targeted a church in the northeastern area of Gadaka on Christmas Eve, but no one was reported killed, while two other blasts hit the northeastern city of Damaturu on Christmas Day, including the suicide bombing.
Emergency officials initially said the blast outside Abuja happened in the church, but later said it occurred near it, with the impact felt inside the church, which was also damaged.
Holes could be seen in the wall of the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla and the roof was badly damaged. What looked to be blood was splashed on the outside of the wall.
A number of cars were destroyed and badly damaged outside from what looked to be a powerful blast.
“What we counted, we church officials, was 30 that was dead here,” Francis Aniezue, a rector at the church, told AFP.
Father Christopher Barde told AFP that the explosion happened as the Christmas morning service was ending.
“As I reached the last entrance, some people met me for blessings and suddenly I heard a bomb blast. It was really terrible,” he said…