A suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of a church in Nigeria's northeastern city of Gombe during a New Year service, wounding at least eight people, according to an official for the country's Red Cross.

No group has caimed responsibility for the overnight attack.

"There was an explosion outside the ECWA church this morning. A suicide bomber who was restrained from getting into the church blew himself up," Abubakar Yakubu, who heads the Nigeria Red Cross in Gombe, said.

"Luckily no one was killed but some people were mildly injured."

A witness said the man arrived during the service at the Evangelist Church of West Africa and refused to park his motorcycle outside a security barrier set up by volunteers.

"He insisted on riding through the barrier," Dahiru Badamasi, who lives in the neighbourhood, was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

"It was while he was arguing with the volunteers that his suicide belt exploded."

String of attacks

Northeast Nigeria has been targeted by a string of attacks blamed on Boko Haram.

Gombe, capital of the eponymous state, has until recently been spared the violence that has shaken the neighbouring states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa, where Boko Haram has taken around 20 towns.

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Boko Haram, which is waging an insurgency to carve out an Islamist state, is mainly focused on the three northeastern states.

However, it frequently set off bombs in other states as well targeting civilians.

Thursday's blast was the second attack in two days in Gombe and the fourth attack in two months.

The city's military barracks were attacked by a suicide bomber on New Year's Eve.

On December 22 two explosions in northern Nigeria - one of them in Gombe - killed at least 20 people.

Seven others died in a bus explosion on Wednesday in a village close to Potiskum, in Yobe state.

President's promises

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who has been frequently criticised for failing to stop Boko Haram, promised on Thursday to re-equip and re-position the armed forces "to enhance their capacity to win the ongoing war against terror and insurgency."

"We will bring justice to the savage terrorists known as Boko Haram. They will be defeated," he said.

"We will not forget. We will not look the other way."

Jonathan, who is up for re-election in February, has made these types of promises before.

However, the violence has continued while private militias have increasing stood in for Nigeria's military in the fight against Boko Haram.

Experts have cast doubt on Nigeria's ability to hold the planned national elections in February due to rising unrest in parts of the northeast.

Source: Agencies