By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- As many as 45 people were killed when bomb blasts rocked churches and the surrounding Christian area of northern Nigeria's largest city in the latest setback for government forces fighting a spreading Islamic insurgency, officials and Christians said Tuesday, July 30.
At least 39 bodies were reportedly recovered around the Christ Salvation Pentecostal Church in Kano where the bloodiest attack occurred in the middle of a Monday night worship service. Six others were killed at other locations in Kano's Sabon Gari area, said Tobias Michael Idika, a Christian community leader.
Among the killed worshipers at the Pentecostal Church were two school children of the same parents, the generally well-informed Nigerian Tribune newspaper said.
The paper reported that their father sustained serious injuries and was receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital in the city.
Local residents said as many as 45 people died in the blasts, which also rocked a service at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church and the Peniel Baptist Church.
PANIC AND CLOUDS
Witnesses said at least four explosions were also heard Monday night around outdoor bars in the same Sabon Gari area of Kano, causing panic and sending clouds of smoke and dust into the air.
"The dead had shrapnel wounds on them," said Aminu Inuwa, spokesman for the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Kano, where many victims arrived.
The military blamed the attack on suspected members of Islamist militant group Boko Haram, or 'Western educacation is a sin' in English, which has been fighting for an Islamic state. Nigeria's military said packages that caused the explosions were
left in the area.
Nigeria's embattled government has been waging a sweeping offensive in the country's northeast in a bid to end Boko Haram's four-year insurgency. Kano, a major commercial center in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north, had not been in the area targeted by the offensive.
However Boko Haram has made it clear it wants Christians to leave northern Nigeria. The group did not immediately claim responsibility for the latest attacks.
Residents described the area as being littered with the personal belongings of those who ran in fear once the explosions began. "There is confusion all over the place," Chinyere Madu, a fruit vendor, told French news agency AFP. "There were four huge explosions, so huge that they shook the whole area."
She said she saw "one person carrying someone on his shoulders with bleeding legs."
"My house is not far from there," resident Kola Oyebanji told AFP. "All my windows are shattered." Another resident Idika Tobias told AFP he had visited the blast site and stood amid a litter of personal effects left behind by people fleeing. "Shoes, bags, cellphones" and other items were scattered around, he said.
It underscored the difficulties authorities are having to combat the Islamic insurgency which often targets churches.
After a massive coordinated gun and bomb assault in January 2012 that killed at least 185 people, security forces stepped up security in Kano, setting up checkpoints at many roundabouts and intersections while watching
Nigeria launched an offensive against Boko Haram in May, specifically targeting three states to the east of Kano. Since then, the security forces have claimed huge gains against the insurgents, saying they have put them on the defensive. Attacks eased after the offensive began but the bloodshed has persisted in some areas.
At least three schools have been attacked in northeastern Nigeria by suspected Boko Haram members in recent weeks.
Over the weekend, clashes between a vigilante group and Boko Haram members left at least 20 people dead in the village of Dawashe in Borno state, AFP reported.
The insurgency is estimated to have claimed more than 3,600 lives since 2009, including killings by the security forces. Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Christian south and mostly Muslim north.
Churches and other Christian groups have urged the government to increase security for Christians.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
Help BosNewsLife to be the voice of the voiceless. Click here for a subscription.