At least four bomb blasts rocked Nigeria, the most populous country on the African continent, killing more than 40 people. A bomb that detonated near a Catholic church in Madallas, Suleja, in Niger State on Christmas morning killed at least 15 people according to local reports, while residents rushed to provide aid to the stricken. In one case, an entire family was killed by the blast that detonated next to their car. Chaos ensued following another blast at an evangelical Christian church in the city of Jos, which has seen numerous murderous attacks by the Islamist Boko Haram terrorist organization. A spokesman for Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks on Christmas Day.
Residents in northeastern Yobe state's town of Gadaka said a blast also struck a church there Christmas services. Also in Yobe state, police in the state capital Damaturu says a car exploded.
Christians were outraged by the attacks, and some went into the street to rage against the Islamist sect. Police fired into the air to disperse crowds as ambulances attempted to reach those injured by the blast near the city of Abuja. Emergency personnel and avaialble ambulances were hard-pressed to respond adequately to the carnage. Nigeria, with a population of approximately 150 million, is divided into the mainly Muslim north and the largely Christian south.
At Madalla, near Abuja, emergency officials initially said the blast happened within the sanctuary of St. Theresa Catholic church, but later said it occurred near it, with the impact felt inside the church, which was also damaged. The area was cordoned off and journalists could not gain access to the church. Authorities told media that three ambulances were carrying at least 15 corpses. It is not known how many people were in the church at the time of the blast, which occurred as the congregation gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. A similar string of bombings occurred in the city of Jos on Christmas Eve 2010 for which Boko Haram claimed resopnsibility. Last year’s carnage resulted ina military crackdown and armed clashes between authorities and Boko Haram. The group’s name means “Western civilization is anti-Islamic.” In recent days, other such bombings have rocked Nigeria.
Reports say that three police officers were killed by the blast at Madalla.One of them had seen a man on a motorcycle drop a bag in front of the church. When the officer went to inspect it, a bomb detonated that killed him and the other victims. St. Theresa’s Church is heavily damaged, also, as a result.
Army Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika told local media that the Nigerian military killed 59 members of the Boko Haram armed sect during December 22-23 clashes in the northeastern city of Damaturu. Reports contend that the butcher’s bill for all sides — authorities, Boko Haram and innocent civilians — could be as high as 100 for these pre-Christmas clashes. A purported spokesman for Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the initial violence in the three northeastern cities, saying they were revenge for a brutal military assault against the sect in 2009. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the August 2011 suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja that killed at least 24 people. There have been a number of attacks in Suleija area, also outside Abuja.
A Vatican spokesman condemned the attacks as acts of "blind hatred" aimed to cause further division and strife in the oil-rich nation. The British foreign minister seconded the Vatican statement. Boko Haram has been linked to Al-Qaeda, which was led by fallen terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.
Efforts to conciliate a truce between Nigeria’s democratically elected government and the Islamist terrorists were unsuccessful this year. Family reunions and religious celebrations were cancelled or dampened because of the still fresh memories of last year’s attacks. President Goodluck Jonathan deplored today’s bombings saying that there is “no reason” for this “ugly incident.” He added, in a statement, “This is one of the challenges of this administration. This will not be for ever it will end one day.” Shehu Sani, president of Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, said "The only option is dialogue. For as long as the group (Boko Haram) has foot soldiers willing to use their bodies, using force will not work against them," he said.