Conflict & Justice

Nigeria: Curfew declared in Kaduna after church bombings, reprisal attacks


Attacks on churches are not uncommon in Nigeria. Above is the debris from a blast at the Holy Cross Church in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna in November 2002.


Pius Utomi Ekpei

In northern Nigeria, a 24-hour curfew has been declared in the state of Kaduna after dozens of people died in multiple suicide attacks on churches, and reprisals by Christian youths targeting Muslims, Agence France-Presse reported.

There were mixed reports on the death toll in Sunday’s violence, but Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper reported that at least 23 people died in the bomb attacks on three churches.

Islamist group Boko Haram on Monday claimed responsibility for the church bombings, in a statement from Abul Qaqa, Boko Haram's purported spokesman.

"Allah has given us victory in the attacks we launched against churches in [the cities of] Kaduna and Zaria which resulted in the deaths of many Christians and security personnel," the statement said, according to AFP.

More from GlobalPost: Three churches bombed in northern Nigeria's Kaduna state

The death toll reports come from the three main hospitals, and do not include the victims taken to private hospitals. Authorities say more than 100 people were wounded.

A further 11 others were killed in reprisal attacks across Kaduna city.

According to AFP, as news of the church bombings spread, police said Christian youths attacked motorists on the main motorway leading to the capital, Abuja, and targeted drivers who appeared to be Muslim.

Declaring the curfew, Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa of Kaduna state banned Kaduna's seven million residents from leaving their homes.

It is understood that thousands of people are trapped in different places of worship and cannot go home because of the curfew order.

More from GlobalPost: Nigerian suicide bomber, gunmen attack churches

The Reverend George Dodo was leading a church service at Christ the King Catholic Church in the town of Zaria, when one of the bombs exploded, killing 10 people.

He explained the scene to Radio France Internationale:

“All of a sudden we heard a bang and the whole cathedral turned to dust. That was the moment when everyone became conscious of the reality. The ceiling was falling off glass was shattered. Then from my seat I could see flames and smoke ... we had been hit by a suicide bomber.”

Reverend Dodo said that security barriers surrounding the cathedral had prevented the bomber from entering the church, adding that had they not been there, he would "probably not be alive."

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The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, condemned Sunday's explosions, and called on “God” to intervene, the Abuja-based Daily Trust reported.

Speaking at a Father's Day mass, Jonathan said he had sought consolation in God, who was capable of handling every situation and healing the nation.

Churches in central and northern Nigeria have become regular targets for bombings by Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect.

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sin,” wants Shariah law more widely applied in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and top oil producer.

The group has been blamed for killing more than 1,000 people since 2009.