Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter bomb blasts kill at least 50 in Kaduna

At least 50 people were killed when explosives concealed in two cars went off near a church during Easter Sunday services in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, eye-witnesses said.
The explosions, a stark reminder of Christmas Day attacks that left dozens of people dead in Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, hit the city of Kaduna, a major cultural and economic centre in the north.
Motorcycle taxi drivers and passers-by caught much of the blast.  Shehu Sani, the President of Civil Rights Congress based in Kaduna, said two explosions took place at the Assemblies of God's Church near the centre of the city with a large Christian population and known as a major cultural and economic centre in Nigeria's north.
"There were two explosions and the casualty figure may go up because some injuries were really critical," he said on phone.
As news of the attack spread, security forces boosted patrols in key areas, including in the capital Abuja, where soldiers were sent to reinforce police posted near churches, an AFP correspondent reported.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
At least one car said to be driven by a suicide bomber was involved in the Kaduna attack, but a rescue official speaking on condition of anonymity said two vehicles packed with explosives detonated.
Officials were still counting the number of wounded, he added.  "Bombs concealed in two cars went off just opposite this church," said one of rescue officials.
A police officer at the scene said a man believed to be a suicide bomber driving a car was stopped at a checkpoint near the church and turned back, but drove to a nearby area close to a hotel and detonated the bomb.
Other cars in the area were damaged, but it was unclear if they were also carrying explosives, he said.
A spokesman for the national emergency management agency said most of the victims appeared to be motorcyle taxi drivers.
Police said the explosion was a bomb, but did not comment further.
"We have a bomb explosion. We are trying to sort things out," police spokesman Aminu Lawal told AFP.
Residents reported seeing dead and injured being taken away. An AFP correspondent said he saw 10 bodies, while one resident said he counted at least 10 wounded.
"From my balcony, I could see policemen loading the dead and the injured into waiting vans," another resident said.
One resident said the explosion was strong enough to shake his house and cause his ceiling to cave in. He ran to the site, which had already been cordoned off, but he said he could see damage to the Assemblies of God Church as well as cars.
Islamist group Boko Haram carried out a series of attacks on churches and other locations on Christmas day, the bloodiest at a church outside Abuja, where 44 people died.
Authorities as well as foreign embassies had warned of the possibility of an attack on Easter Sunday.
Boko Haram's increasingly bloody insurgency has left more than 1,000 people dead since mid-2009. Police and soldiers have often been the victims of such attacks, though Christians have regularly been targeted as well.


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