Blast rocks Nigerian church in volatile Jos, 2 killed

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 26, 2012 3:48 AM
Blast rocks Nigerian church in volatile Jos, 2 killed

JOS, Nigeria (Reuters) - An explosion killed at least two people at a church on Sunday in the central Nigerian city of Jos, witnesses said.

A Reuters reporter at the scene saw two bodies. The church was still smoldering and part of the building was damaged. Witnesses said a bomber had rammed a car into the church before detonating explosives.

Ethnic and religious tensions run high in the city, which sometimes sees dozens killed in bouts of intercommunal violence.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but Islamist militant group Boko Haram has targeted churches as part of its growing campaign of violence against the government.

A bomb exploded near a church in the Nigerian town of Suleja, on the edge of the capital, on Sunday, wounding five people.

Boko Haram, which wants sharia law more widely applied across Africa's most populous nation, has become increasingly sophisticated and deadly in its methods in the last six months. It has widened its targets beyond attacks on police and other authority figures to include Christians.

That has raised fears that the sect, styled on the Taliban whose name means "Western education is forbidden," is trying to ignite sectarian strife in Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer.

A series of bombs struck churches in Nigeria on Christmas Day, including one which hit a Catholic Church in Madala, just outside Abuja, killing 37 people and wounding 57, and one in Jos. Boko Haram claimed the blasts.

The attacks heightened sectarian tensions in the country of 160 million, split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims who mostly live side by side in peace.

Jos and other cities in the "Middle Belt" between Nigeria's largely Christian south and its mostly Muslim north have sometimes been prone to clashes.

(Reporting by Buhari Bello; Writing by Tim Cocks)