ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– A car bombing in the northern Nigerian town of Kudana killed dozens of people and damaged churches during an Easter worship service Sunday, April 8, officials and Christians said.
Witnesses said a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives Sunday morning on a busy road near the All Nations Christian Assembly Church and the ECWA Good News Church.
The explosive-laden car attempted to go into the compound of the churches before it detonated, but was blocked by barriers in the street and was turned away by a security guard as police approached, news reports said.
Christians said a suicide bomber in a vehicle was moving towards the church, but that the device exploded prematurely.
“It seem the bombers were aiming at one Christian gathering as they were warned two days before Easter,” Nigerian Christian evangelist Paul Jongas, who has contacts in the area, told BosNewsLife.
At least 38 people were killed in the blast, said Abubakar Zakari Adamu, a spokesman for the Kaduna state Emergency Management Agency in published remarks.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. However, the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, or ‘Western Education is a sin’ has been carrying out attacks across the country in its attempt to establish a state based on Sharia, or Muslim, law.
It also demanded that Christians leave Nigeria’s northern region.
The group is also known for staging large attacks against Christians around holidays, including Christmas Eve bombings in 2010 that killed 86 people, and last year’s Christmas Day bombing which killed 39 others.
Sunday’s blast in Kaduna, capital of Kaduna state, badly damaged the All Nations Christian Assembly Church while churchgoers worshiped during an an Easter service, the possible target of the bomber.
“We were in the holy communion service and I was exhorting my people and all of a sudden, we heard a loud noise that shattered all our windows and doors, destroyed our fans and some of our equipment in the church,” Pastor Joshua Raji told reporters.
Reporters said the explosion left charred motorcycles and debris strewn across a major road in the Kudana where many gather to eat at informal restaurants and buy black market gasoline.
Nearby hotels had their windows blown out of by the force of the powerful explosion, which engulfed a group of motorcycle taximen, an Associated Press (AP) news agency reporter said.
Others suffered serious injuries and were receiving treatment at local hospitals, AP quoted Adamu as saying.
It came shortly after on Wednesday, April 4, gunmen opened fire on Christian traders at a busy market in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the epicenter of Boko Haram’s attacks, killing 11 people and wounding several others, witnesses said.
Just before the attack, gunmen reportedly shot dead an electronics technician on a popular city street. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but authorities said they suspect Boko Haram.
The Voice of America (VOA) network quoted witnesses as saying that that nine of the dead were Christians from the Igbo ethnic group.
Borno state deputy governor Zanna Mustapha visited the market Thursday, which was closed to mourn the victims. VOA reported from the scene that “the smell of blood still hung in the air.”
On Thursday, April 5, authorities reportedly raided two hideouts in northeastern Gombe state Thursday, seizing explosives and rocket launchers and arresting six people. Officials did not say whether the suspects were from Boko Haram and the latest attack suggested that many gunmen have not been caught.
Experts say that the core Boko Haram cell has splintered into factions of varying extremism, some of which have professed ties to regional franchises linked to terror group al-Qaeda.
Britain and the United States have issued warnings to their citizens living in Nigeria with the British government pointing to a “high risk of terrorist attack during religious festivals” this weekend. (With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center, VOA’s Anne Look in Dakar, and reports from Nigeria).