Gunmen stormed a church service in Nigeria, killing six people and wounding others, the latest in a string of attacks that has raised fears of sectarian conflict in Africa’s most populous nation.
Nigerian police told the AFP news agency they were investigating the attack that took place at the Deeper Life Christian Ministry Church in the northern city of Gombe.
Church pastor John Jauro said confusion broke out when the gunmen opened fire and that his wife was among the dead. The number of attackers was not clear.
“It was around 7:30 pm (1830 GMT),” Pastor Jauro told AFP. “I was leading the congregation in prayers. Our eyes were closed when some gunmen stormed the church and opened fire on the congregation. Six people were killed in the attack.”
Gombe state police spokesman Ahmed Muhammad confirmed on Friday that six people died following the shootings, and that eight others were wounded.
There was no claim of responsibility for Thursday’s attack. Police said an investigation was ongoing,but declined to say whether the Islamist group Boko Haram was suspected.
Thursday’s attack comes after a purported spokesman for Boko Haram on Sunday issued a three-day ultimatum for Christians living in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north to leave the region or they would be killed.
The ultimatum came after President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday declared a state of emergency in parts of four states hit hard by violence blamed on Boko Haram, particulary Christmas bombings that killed at least 40 people.
Gombe is outside the areas affected by the state of emergency decree.
On Wednesday night, bomb blasts hit two northeastern cities that are included in the emergency declaration.
No casualties were reported after the bomb attacks in Maiduguri and Damaturu, claimed by the same purported spokesman for Boko Haram who issued the ultimatum to Christians.
Boko Haram whose name loosely translates to “Western education is sacrilege”, has carried out a succession of recent attacks in the country, in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people.
Meanwhile, in Abuja on Friday, Nigerian police blocked protesters from marching to the capital’s main parade ground as part of demonstrations over soaring fuel prices which have sparked nationwide outrage.
About 40 protesters sought to march to Eagle Square in the capital when police blocked the road and prevented them, an AFP correspondent reported.
On Thursday in the country’s northern city of Kano, at least 300 people were wounded and 19 arrested and later released as police fired tear gas and beat protesters to force them out of a square they had occupied in an overnight sit-in, an organiser said.
Nigeria has seen increasingly volatile demonstrations since the government announced the end of fuel subsidies on Sunday, causing petrol prices to instantly double in a country where most people live on less than $2 per day.
The Nigerian government held an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the second day of mass protests, after one person killed and more injured.