Sunday, June 17, 2012

Nigeria church bombings kill 7, spark reprisals

ZARIA, Nigeria, June 17 (Reuters) - Explosions at three churches in Nigeria's northern Kaduna state killed at least seven people on Sunday, leading furious Christian youths to drag Muslims out of their cars and kill them in retaliation, officials and witnesses said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Islamist sect Boko Haram has often attacked church services in Nigeria, split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims.

The explosions and retaliatory attacks stoked fears of wider sectarian conflict in Africa's top oil producer and OPEC member, although flare-ups of this nature are usually brief.

Two explosions rocked churches in the town of Zaria within minutes of each other. First, a suicide bomber drove a blue Honda civic into a church, burning the front entrance and damaging the building, the church's pastor told a Reuters cameraman at the scene.

"Three people are confirmed killed. Others have been taken to hospital for treatment," Reverend Nathan Waziri said.

Then, militants threw bombs at another church, killing four children who were playing on the streets outside, said resident Deborah Osagie, who lives opposite the church. She added that the militants were later caught by a mob and killed.

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