The death toll from a Christmas Day bomb attack on a church near the Nigerian capital Abuja rose to 26, the government said.
The number injured in the early morning attack couldn’t be ascertained because many were being taken “in and out of hospitals,” Yushau Shaibu, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, said by phone today.
The U.S. promised to help Nigeria find those responsible for at least three bombings yesterday.
“We have been in contact with Nigerian officials about what appear to be terrorist acts and pledge to assist them in bringing those responsible to justice,” according to a statement by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
Authorities in Africa’s top oil producer blame the Boko Haram Muslim sect for a surge of violence in the mainly Muslim north and Abuja in which hundreds of people have died this year. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks, two of which targeted churches, according to newspaper reports. A year ago, the group said it was behind holiday bombings that killed more than 90 people.
The first explosion yesterday occurred as services were ending at St. Theresa’s Church near the capital. Another blast, at a church in the central city of Jos, capital of Plateau state, killed a policeman, said Pam Ayuba, a spokesman for the state government.
A suicide-bomber rammed a car into the entrance of the State Security Service building in the northeastern city of Damaturu, killing four people and the bomber, according to Victor Ebhaleme, a spokesman for the military task force in charge of security in the region.
Attacks by the group would have been worse during the holiday period had it not been for preemptive action by the security agencies, President Goodluck Jonathan’s security adviser said.
“Out of frustration arising from pro-active measures taken by security agencies against their chosen targets, they decided to throw improvised explosive devices from a moving vehicle,” Owoye Azazi, a retired army general, said in a e-mailed statement today.
Security officials last week recovered five improvised explosive devices from five churches in Mubi in the northeastern state of Adamawa, he said.
Nigerian security agencies also last week destroyed armory belonging to the group in the northern states of Kaduna, Kano and Yobe, he said.
Boko Haram, which draws inspiration from Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, claimed responsibility for the Abuja church attack, the Abuja-based Trust newspaper reported, citing a spokesman for the group, Abu Qaqa. The claim couldn’t be independently verified.
The Vatican denounced the attacks, saying they were a sign of “cruelty and absurd blind hatred that shows no respect for human life.”
At least 72 people have been killed in fighting since Dec. 22 between Nigerian security forces and the militant group in the northeastern city of Damaturu, officials said.
Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is a sin,” claimed responsibility for a suicide car-bomb attack on the United Nations building in the capital on Aug. 26 that killed 24 people. The group also claimed several Christmas Eve blasts last year in Jos that left 80 people dead and another blast on New Year’s Eve at an Abuja military barracks that killed at least 12 people.
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