A suicide attack on a church in Kaduna yesterday (Sunday) that has sparked fierce reprisals leading to a Christian mob burning a man alive has left at least 10 people dead and 145 wounded.
Christian youths took to the streets of the northern city of Kaduna with machetes and sticks after the blast, targeting those they believed to be Muslims as anger again boiled over due to repeated church bombings in recent months.
An AFP correspondent reports that attackers beat a motorcycle taxi driver near the church, then put his bike on top of him before dousing him with petrol and setting him on fire. Two other bloodied bodies apparently killed by the mob were seen near the church.
A rescue official said rescuers could not save the man because the mob was too violent.
“So far we have eight dead and 145 injured from the church blast,” Musa Ilallah, regional coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency, told AFP, noting that his death toll included the suspected bomber.
A witness identified as Emmanuel said: “All of a sudden it drove on high speed and rammed into the church wall, forcing its way into the church premises.”
“Initially I thought the driver had lost control of the vehicle. Suddenly there was a huge explosion as the car reached the church building. It was dust, fire and smoke all over.”
A spokesman for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency confirmed the bomb attack and said rescuers had been rushed to the scene.
“A number of casualties evacuated to hospitals,” said Yushau Shuaib. The incident was suspected to be triggered by a suicide bomber in a car.”
An AFP correspondent said mobs were yelling “why the church?” and some were carrying weapons, including machetes. Local elders were seeking to restore calm.
Residents had earlier spoken of clashes having broken out between Christian and Muslim residents, and some believe today’s attack seem to be achieving its motives with the Christian mob already on rampage.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for three suicide attacks on churches in Kaduna state in June, which led to deadly rioting where dozens of lives were lost.
Boko Haram’s insurgency in northern and central Nigeria has led to more than 2,800 deaths since 2009. While Muslims have often been its victims, it has in recent months also specifically targeted churches.
President Goodluck Jonathan has said the group is seeking to incite a religious crisis in Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
Kaduna is a large mainly Muslim city north and includes a sizeable Christian population.
Some Evangelical church leaders in Nigeria have said Christians may be forced to defend themselves if something is not done to address the unrest.