25 Dec 2011

Fatal bomb blasts hit Nigerian churches

Five explosions rock Nigeria killing dozens of people. The most serious blast is at a Catholic church on the outskirts of the capital Abuja.

Emergency services say several people were killed in the first explosion which happened during Christmas prayers.

“I cannot give an exact figure of casualties. But we (National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA) came with 25 body bags and we have exhausted them all.

So at this point we are talking of 25 bodies in those bags,” said Slaku Lugard, a NEMA official.

Witnesses said the church was packed: “We were in the church with my family when we heard the explosion. I just ran out.

“Now I don’t even know where my children or my wife are. I don’t know how many were killed but there were many dead,” said Timothy Onyekwere.

A bomb has exploded in a Catholic church on the outskirts of the Nigerian capital Abuja (Saharareporters.com)

(Pictures courtesy of Saharareporters.com)

Hours later, another blast went off at the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in the central, ethnically and religiously mixed town of Jos.

Charles Dickson is a journalist in Jos with Saharareporters.com – he told Channel 4 News that one person has died there: “It is tense. We have traffic check points, cars are being scrutinised and checked.”

He added that some people had also sustained gunshot wounds: “In the aftermath of the blast there was a lot of people rushing up and down, there was confusion and the soldiers probably got a little excited.”

Islamist sect Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa claimed the bombings in a statement to the journalists’ association of Maiduguri, capital of the group’s heartland.

Two explosions were also heard in the northern city of Damaturu.

A bomb has exploded in a Catholic church on the outskirts of the Nigerian capital Abuja (Saharareporters.com)

Attacks condemned

Foreign secretary William Hague has condemned the bomb attacks.

The assaults come a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “I condemn today’s bomb attacks in or near churches in Nigeria.

“These are cowardly attacks on families gathered in peace and prayer to celebrate a day which symbolises harmony and goodwill towards others.

“I offer my condolences to the bereaved and injured.”

The Vatican has denounced the attacks as a sign of “cruelty and absurd, blind hatred” that shows no respect for human life.

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