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Sunday, February 19, 2012
NEWS: Suleja Christ Embassy Bomb Explosion...
SULEJA, Nigeria - A car exploded outside a church in the middle of a worship service Sunday near Nigeria's capital, wounding five people and sparking new fears of violence from a radical Islamist sect, authorities said.
Police and emergency officials could not say whether the blast came from a bomb inside the car. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion that also destroyed five vehicles. However, the area has been targeted in the past by the sect known as Boko Haram, including the Christmas Day car bombing of a nearby church that killed at least 44 people.
The explosion happened in the city of Suleja in Niger state, which sits near the border of Nigeria's capital Abuja, officials said. The blast happened in an area near hotels in the city and just outside of a Christ Embassy church, said Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman for Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency.
One person was seriously injured in the blast and taken to a local hospital, local police spokesman Richard Oguche said. Another four people suffered minor injuries, Shuaib said. Authorities began to put up roadblocks Sunday afternoon to keep onlookers away and traffic snarled around the city.
While police continued to investigate, suspicion for the blast immediately fell on Boko Haram, a group that has been waging increasingly bloody attacks against Nigeria's weak central government.
Members of the sect have been blamed for killing at least 289 people this year alone, according to an Associated Press count. The group's leader says its campaign of violence also is aimed at avenging Muslim deaths and pushing for strict Shariah law across multiethnic Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people.
The sect's attacks, including those specifically targeting Christians, have widened distrust between the two faiths in Africa's most populous nation. Nigeria is largely split between a Christian south and a Muslim north, and most of Boko Haram's previous attacks have taken place in the north.
Meanwhile, authorities blamed the group for killing two people Saturday in Nigeria's northeast. There, gunmen shot dead an Islamic cleric and a local politician in separate attacks, police said.
Associated Press writer Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, Nigeria contributed to this report.