A suicide car bomber has blown himself up at a Catholic church in a remote part of northern Nigeria, killing a woman and child and wounding at least 22 other people, officials said.
Sunday’s blast appeared to hit a car park alongside St John’s Catholic Church in the city of Bauchi, which has seen a number of bombings and shootings blamed on the armed Islamist group Boko Haram.
Police and military surrounded the church and did not allow journalists inside the cordon.
Later at a nearby hospital, Bauchi deputy police commissioner T Stevens told journalists told that the bomber had been stopped at the church’s gate, where he detonated the explosives packed inside his car.
Doctors said more could die from their injuries.
Situation ‘under control’
“The situation has been brought under control,” Stevens said. “We have our men minding all areas.”
Stevens said no group or individual had claimed responsibility for the attack, though suspicion immediately fell on Boko Haram.
The group, whose roughly name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the Hausa language of Nigeria’s north, has been waging an increasingly deadly fight against Nigeria’s weak central government.
|Bombings at three churches in Nigeria’s northern Kaduna state killed at least seven people in June 17 [Reuters]|
More than 680 people have died in drive-by killings and bombings blamed on Boko Haram this year alone, according to an AP news agency count.
The group has demanded the release of all its captive members and has called for strict Shariah law to be implemented across the entire country.
The group has used suicide car bombs against churches in the past, most noticeably a 2011 Christmas Day attack on a Catholic church in Madalla near Nigeria’s capital.
That attack and assaults elsewhere in the country killed at least 44 people.
An unclaimed car bombing on Easter in Kaduna killed at least 38 people on a busy roadway after witnesses say it was turned away from a church.
Attacks against churches by the group have waned in recent weeks.
Nigeria’s military claimed it killed the group’s spokesperson and a commander on September 17 outside the city of Kano, potentially shaking up a group that has continued attacks despite a tighter military presence in northern cities.
The killing of members of the group’s senior leadership comes as it recently changed some of its tactics and attacked more than 30 mobile phone towers throughout northern Nigeria, disrupting communications in a nation reliant on mobile phones.
On Saturday night, the military conducted door-to-door searches in the northern cities of Damaturu and Potiskum, areas now under a 24-hour curfew that have been hard-hit by the group.