Nigeria church attack kills 6 during Christmas Eve service

Gunmen attacked a church in northern Nigeria during a Christmas Eve service, killing six people, including the pastor, and setting the building on fire.

According to Al Jazeera, the attack took place in the village of Peri, near Potiskum, the economic capital of Yobe state.

"A group of gunmen came into the village at midnight and went straight to the church... they opened fire on them [...] They then set fire to the church," said Usman Mansir, a resident of the village.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, reported BBC News, but Boko Haram Islamist militant group has been targeting a number of churches in the north since 2010 in its campaign to impose Sharia law.

More from GlobalPost: Nigeria: Church suicide bombing kills 8, sparks revenge attacks

This year the police and army promised to protect churches and boosted security in major northern towns and cities, noted Reuters.

Boko Haram has repeatedly targeted churches on Christmas Day, including multiple attacks in 2011, according to Agence France-Presse. In his Christmas message from the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI prayed for "concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians."

Al Jazeera noted that while Yobe's population is mostly Muslim, the commercial hub of Potiskum has a significant Christian minority.