At least 12 people were killed, and 35 seriously injured, in a suicide bombing at a Christian church in northern Nigeria on Sunday, June 3. The suicide bomber drove his vehicle, packed with explosives, into a security checkpoint that had been set up by police near the church in Bauchi.
Although the vehicle was stopped short of the church itself, the explosion caused the building to collapse, and worshippers who rushed out were caught in a fire started by the bomb.
“We have a checkpoint not far from the church which prevented the bomber from gaining access to his target,” said State police commissioner Mohammed Ladan.
“So he rammed the car into a security gate and the car exploded, killing him and eight other people. … many people were injured,” he added.
Boko Haram has claimed attacks killing more than 1,000 in Nigeria since July 2009, with some of the worst bloodshed coming in the northeast.
The group staged a daring jailbreak in Bauchi in September 2010 during which it said roughly 100 of its members were freed.
Meanwhile Archbishop of Jos and President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, Ignatius Ayau Kaigama condemned the killings. "We are appalled and shocked by the two tragedies that hit Nigeria, the airplane crash in Lagos that killed 153 people, and the attack on a Christian church in Bauchi,"
It is reported that the original target was the evangelical Living Faith Church, which has a large congregation. Due to the tight security at the church, the suicide bomber was said to have instead rammed his car bomb into the Harvest Field Church of Christ. Eye witness reports say that all nearby churches were forced to shut down prematurely, and worshipers fled for safety to their homes after the blast. Security has since been heightened.
It was not clear who was responsible for the blast on the outskirts of the city of Bauchi, although churches have been a favorite target of violent Islamist sect Boko Haram this year- meaning that it is likely to be the handwork of the sect.
Over the last few years, Boko Haram has made numerous deadly attacks especially on Christians and their places of worship in Nigeria. On Christmas Day, 2011, a bomb blast killed numerous Christians as they departed divine services, for example. Bombings and armed attacks continue, especially in northern Nigeria where Boko Haram holds sway and has demanded Christians either convert to Islam or depart.
Also on Sunday, June 3, an airliner flying from Abuja crashed in a neighborhood in Lagos. The plane, carrying 147 passengers and six crew members, hit a two-storey building and a church and a small print shop. There were no survivors. No connection to any terrorist group has yet been discovered in the mishap.