As many as 50 people were killed in a suicide car bombing today near a church in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna.
“It was a big explosion that shook the whole city,” and about 50 people may have died, Shehu Sani, president of the Civil Rights Congress, said by phone from Kaduna. The explosion occurred about 8:30 a.m. local time near the Assemblies of God Protestant church in the city, Sani said. Nobody has claimed responsibility so far.
Kaduna state’s Emergency Agency said 16 people had died in the city’s four hospitals, though this number didn’t include those immediately killed in the blast, Abubakar Zakari Adamu, a spokesman for the agency said by phone. About 30 others were seriously injured and being treated, he said. Yinka David, a Kaduna resident, said by phone that he counted about 30 bodies at the scene and the bombing happened about 500 meters from the church.
Authorities in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, blame Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group, for a surge of attacks since 2009 against government buildings and security forces in the mainly Muslim north and Abuja, the capital. Those attacks have caused hundreds of deaths.
“We are working hard to get those behind it,” Aminu Lawan, a spokesman for Kaunda state police said by phone. He said five people were killed in the attack, though the death toll may rise, he said.
Boko Haram, whose name means “western education is a sin,” claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day bombing of a church near Abuja that killed at least 43 people, as well as multiple blasts and attacks in the city of Kano on Jan. 20 that killed at least 256 people.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with more than 160 million people, is split almost evenly between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.
The National Emergency Management Agency officials are visiting local hospitals to get an update on the casualty figures and to give support to the victims, Yushau Shuaib, an Abuja-based spokesman for the agency, said by phone today. The explosion occurred near the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna and didn’t affect the city’s oil refinery, he added.
“It seems commercial okada riders are major victims,” Shuaib said in an earlier text message, referring to motorcycle taxi drivers.
An explosion in Kaduna killed at least one person at a military checkpoint in February.
In a separate incident, the police said they killed two suspected members of Boko Haram and arrested one in the northern city of Bauchi as they planned an attack, Muhammed Ladan, police commissioner for Bauchi, said in an e-mailed statement today.
Reuben Abati, a spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan, didn’t answer two calls made to his mobile phone seeking comment.
U.K. Foreign Office Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham condemned the bombing in Kaduna.
“This horrific act took place on Easter Sunday injuring and killing innocent people,” Bellingham said in a statement today on the foreign office’s website. “The full tragedy of the attacks is not yet clear, but I send my sincere condolences to those who have been injured or bereaved.”
Islamic militants, who also claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 suicide bombing at the United Nations building in Abuja that left 24 dead, pose a worse threat to the country than the 1967-1970 Biafra civil war, Jonathan said on Jan. 8.