A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Catholic church in central Nigeria on Sunday, killing seven people and sparking panic in which security forces shot three others dead.
It was the second suicide attack on a church in the flashpoint central city of Jos in two weeks, after a February 26 attack claimed by Islamist sect Boko Haram killed three people and injured dozens.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned Sunday’s bombing and reaffirmed his government’s determination “to end the spate of mindless attacks and killings”.
Jos, a faultline in Nigeria’s Muslim-Christian divide between north and south, was tense in the aftermath of the bombing amid fears of a reprise of deadly riots which followed last month’s attack.
“There are rumours of reprisals from Christian youths, but we hope the security agents are on top of the situation as they have cordoned off the area,” said Alhassan Danjuma Aliyu of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Worshippers were filing out from Sunday mass in St. Finbar’s Catholic church when the suicide bomber crashed his bomb-laden car into the gate, killing seven people and leaving a dozen others dazed and injured on the ground, Plateau State government spokesman Pam Ayuba said.
Three men were then shot as security forces fired on a crowd of onlookers who gathered after the blast.
“There were 10 dead — seven parishioners and three that were shot dead by soldiers,” in a bid to disperse the crowd, Ayuba told AFP.
The bomber was also killed, “mutilated beyond recognition”.
Boy scouts tried to stop the car, he said.
“The security guards, who were mainly members of the Boys Brigade, tried to prevent the car from entering the compound and in the process the car exploded.”
Three people died at the scene, emergency agency spokesman Yushau Shuaib said. Several others were reported to be in a critical condition.
Emergency workers said the death toll could have been higher had the bomber managed to get the vehicle closer to his target. “The bomb exploded before he could get to the church,” said Shuaib.
Peter Umoren, the parish priest at the church, told AFP seven of his parishioners were killed while 12 others were injured in the blast.
“We lost seven church members while 12 were injured and have been taken to the Plateau state specialist hospital and the airforce military hospital for treatment,” he said.
He said there were a total of four suicide bombers, two in the car and two on a motorcycle escorting it, all of whom were killed. There was no immediate confirmation of his claim.
The blast blew out church windows and cracked the wall, an AFP reporter at the scene said, adding that the engine of the car was detached from its shattered body and flung into the church compound….