Nigeria Authorities Arrest Two People Over Christmas Day Attacks

Nigeria Authorities Arrest Two People
People gather around burnt cars near St Theresa Catholic Church after a bomb blast in the Madala Zuba district of Nigeria's capital Abuja on Dec. 25, 2011. Photographer: Sunday Aghaeze/AFP/Getty Images

Nigerian authorities arrested two people suspected of being involved in the Christmas Day bomb attack on a church near the capital, Abuja, the national security adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan said.

“Two of the criminals had been apprehended, caught in action,” Owoye Azazi, a retired army general, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. He gave no details on the arrests.

At least 26 people died in an explosion at the St. Theresa’s Church in the early hours of Dec. 25. The Boko Haram Muslim sect, which draws inspiration from Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, claimed responsibility for the attack, the Abuja-based Trust newspaper reported.

Authorities in Africa’s top oil producer blame Boko Haram for a surge of violence in the mainly Muslim north and Abuja in which hundreds of people have been killed this year. At least 72 people died in fighting since Dec. 22 between Nigerian security forces and the militant group in the northeastern city of Damaturu, according to security officials.

Rescue workers have been unable to ascertain the number of people injured in the attack on St. Theresa’s as many of those hurt are being taken “in and out of hospitals,” Yushau Shaibu, spokesman for National Emergency Management Agency, said by phone yesterday.

At least five people died in two other blasts on Christmas Day in the West African country, government officials said. An explosion at a church in the central city of Jos, capital of Plateau state, killed a policeman, while a suspected 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.

U.S. Assistance

The Obama administration promised to help Nigeria find the people responsible for the attacks.

Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is a sin,” claimed responsibility for a suicide car-bomb attack on the United Nations building in Abuja on Aug. 26 in which 24 people were killed. It 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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