JOS, Nigeria: A suicide car bomber detonated his explosives outside a major church Sunday, killing three people and wounding 38 in a restive central Nigerian
city that has seen hundreds die in religious and ethnic violence.
The radical Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack on the main headquarters of the Church of Christ in Nigeria that hit as worshippers took part in an early morning service.
The attack follows other assaults the sect has claimed
against Christians in Nigeria’s north, widening distrust between the two main faiths in the multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people.
The attack killed a woman, and a father and his child near the explosion, Plateau state spokesman Pam Ayuba said. The bomber apparently ran down the woman while racing his car toward the church compound, said Mark Lipdo, a coordinator for a Christian group called the Stefanos
The blast left shattered glass all over the church compound, as an angry crowd of youths began smashing the windows of cars passing by the scene, witnesses said.
Emergency officials took 38 people to hospitals for treatment, said Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman with Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency.
In a statement, President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the attack.
“Those who seek to divide us by fear and terror will not succeed,” it read. “The indiscriminate bombing of Christians and Muslims is a threat to all peace-loving
Speaking to journalists in a conference call Sunday, a Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the suicide car bombing.
Boko Haram has launched increasingly bloody attacks across Nigeria, including ones on churches. A Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church that left at least 44 dead was claimed by the sect in Madalla, a town just outside the country’s capital, Abuja.
The group also claimed responsibility for bomb attacks on Christmas Eve that struck Jos in 2010, killing as many as 80 people.
Jos and surrounding Plateau state have been torn apart in recent years by violence pitting its different ethnic groups and major religions — Christianity and Islam — against
each other. Human Rights Watch says at least 1,000 people were killed in communal clashes around Jos in 2010.