Nigeria church bombings kill 19, spark reprisal attacks on Muslims
Suicide car bombers attacked three churches in northern Nigeria on Sunday, killing at least 19 people, wounding dozens and triggering retaliatory attacks by Christian youths who dragged Muslims from cars and killed them, witnesses said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings but just one week ago Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for deadly church attacks.
The Vatican condemned the “systematic attacks against Christian places of worship” which it said proved the existence of an “absurd plan of hate” in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims.
The violence stoked fears of wider sectarian conflict in Nigeria, an OPEC member and Africa’s top oil producer. The Christian Association of Kano, northern Nigeria’s main city, called the bombings “a clear invitation to religious war”.
Nigeria’s Muslims and Christians mostly co-exist peacefully but periodic flare-ups of sectarian violence have killed hundreds since independence from Britain in 1960. In the past, outbursts of retaliatory violence have been short lived
Last Sunday, Boko Haram militants attacked two churches in Nigeria, spraying the congregation of one with bullets, killing at least one person, and blowing up a car in a suicide bombing at the other, wounding 41.
Boko Haram says it is fighting to reinstate an ancient Islamic caliphate that would adhere to strict sharia law.
The Islamists’ leader Abubakar Shekau says attacks on Christians are in revenge for killings of Muslims in Nigeria’s volatile “Middle Belt”, where the largely Christian south and mostly Muslim north meet.