LAGOS, Nigeria – Terror attacks across Nigeria by a radical Muslim sect killed at least 39 people, with the majority dying on the steps of a Catholic church after celebrating Christmas Mass.
Authorities on Sunday acknowledged they could not bring enough emergency medical personnel to care for the wounded outside St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla near Nigeria’s capital. Elsewhere, a bomb exploded amid gunfire in the central Nigeria city of Jos and a suicide car bomber attacked the military in the nation’s northeast as part of an apparently coordinated assault by the sect known as Boko Haram.
The Christmas Day violence, denounced by world leaders and the Vatican, shows the threat of the widening insurrection posed by Boko Haram against Nigeria’s weak central government. Despite a recent paramilitary crackdown against the sect in the oil-rich nation, it appears that Africa’s most populous nation remains unable to stop the threat.
The first explosion on Sunday struck St. Theresa Catholic Church just after 8 a.m. The attack killed 35 people and wounded another 52, said Slaku Luguard, a coordinator with Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency.
In Jos, a second explosion struck near the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church, state government spokesman Pam Ayuba said. Gunmen later opened fire on police guarding the area, killing one officer, he said.
By noon Sunday, explosions echoed through the streets of Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state where fighting between security forces and the sect already had killed at least 61 people in recent days. The most serious attack on Sunday came when a suicide bomber detonated a car loaded with explosives at the state headquarters of Nigeria’s secret police, the State Security Service.
The bomber killed three people in the blast, though the senior military commander apparently targeted survived the attack, the State Security Service said in a statement.
After the bombings, a Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in an interview with the Daily Trust, the newspaper of record across Nigeria’s Muslim north.