JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- At least eight worshipers were killed Sunday in a suicide attack on a Roman Catholic church in northern Nigeria, according to officials. About 100 other people were injured, raising fears the death toll could rise.
Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency confirmed in a statement Sunday that eight people died in the blast in Kaduna. No group claimed responsibility; however, the attack bore the hallmarks of previous terrorist attacks by the Islamist insurgent militia Boko Haram, which models itself on Afghanistan's Taliban and wants to impose Sharia law across the country.
“A number of casualties were evacuated to hospitals. The incident was suspected to be triggered by a suicide bomber in a car which relevant security agencies may soon determined,” NEMA spokesman Yushau Shuaib said in the statement.
The bombing follows a string of deadly terrorist attacks in the north, many targeting churches. Extremists also have launched assaults on police stations, burned schools, bombed automatic teller machines and assassinated politicians.
The attacker approached the church in a vehicle laden with explosives early Sunday, but was turned back, according to news agencies. The driver then reversed, accelerated and slammed the vehicle into the church wall, detonating the blast.
Though officials said at least eight people died, local media reports put the fatalities between seven and 10.
The bombing sparked revenge attacks, with two Muslim men killed, including one who was set upon by a Christian mob armed with machetes and sticks and was burned alive, Agence France-Presse reported.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has been hit by sectarian violence on the divide between the country's impoverished and predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south.
Kaduna, which lies on the sectarian fault line, has seen previous violence on religious grounds.
President Jonathon Goodluck, who earlier this year promised to crush Boko Haram by June 2012, pledged Sunday to increase efforts to prevent violent terrorist attacks. He called the attack "barbaric, cruel and uncalled for."
Local newspapers pictured him slumped forward, head on hands, his trademark fedora next to him on a large stack of files.
“Our efforts to deal with all acts of terror and violence would only be redoubled even as the security agencies continue to receive all the support they need from government to reverse this unfortunate and unacceptable trend that threatens the peace and stability of our nation," he said.
In recent months, Nigerian churches in the center and north of the country have instituted tight security, but attacks persist.
Photo: Nigerian police survey the scene of a suicide car bomb blast Sunday at St. Rita's Roman Catholic Church in the Malali neighbourhood of Kaduna. Credit: EPA / Stringer