3 church blasts rock Nigeria

2012-06-17 16:01

Lagos - Three church blasts rocked a northern Nigerian state on Sunday, officials said, prompting protests in a state that has previously been strained by religious tensions.

The first two blasts hit churches in the city of Zaria, said Kaduna State police spokesperson Aminu Lawan. National Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Yushau Shuaib said the third explosion rocked the city of Kaduna.

Neither spokesperson could say how many people may have been killed or hurt.

A Nigerian Red Cross report said rescuers are still trying to get victims of the Zaria attacks to nearby hospitals. The report said young people have started protesting in Zaria, raising fears that Sunday's church attacks could further inflame a state strained by religious tensions.

Churches have been increasingly targeted by violence in Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people. An Easter Day blast in Kaduna left at least 38 people dead. A Christmas Day suicide bombing of a Catholic church in Madalla near Nigeria's capital killed at least 44 people.

Authorities said they had no immediate suspects for Sunday's attacks, though a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram has claimed similar attacks in the past. More than 560 people have been killed in violence blamed on the sect this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.

Kaduna state, which sits on Nigeria's dividing line between its largely Christian south and Muslim north, was at the heart of post-election violence in April 2011. Mobs armed with machetes and poison-tipped arrows took over streets of Kaduna and the state's rural countryside after election officials declared President Goodluck Jonathan the winner.

Followers of his main opponent, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, quickly alleged the vote had been rigged, though observers largely declared the vote fair.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 800 were killed in the post-election violence. Of the 800, at least 680 people were killed in Kaduna State alone.

Read more on:    boko haram  |  nigeria  |  religion  |  west africa

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