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Bomb Attacks by Muslims Aimed at Churches across Nigeria Kills at Least 40 People

From The Telegraph:

Boko Haram, a group with ties to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attacks, as they continued to escalate a campaign against moderate Muslims, Christians and Western influence.

Nicknamed the Nigerian Taliban, they have become of increasing concern to British intelligence and are responsible for at least 500 killings this year.

Britain, the Vatican and the White House condemned the attacks, which Nigerian security officials said were premeditated.

The first explosion struck at the St Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, a satellite town about 25 miles from the capital, Abuja.

Rescue workers recovered at least 35 bodies from the church according to Father Christopher Barde, Assistant Catholic Priest of the church. Dozens more were injured.

The church was still packed when the explosion went off as members of the congregation poured out at the end of Christmas mass.

Eyewitness reports said the large church’s front roof had collapsed in the blast which had also destroyed several houses and burned out five cars.

One witness, Nnana Nwachukwu, said the blast occurred on the road outside the church.

“Mass just ended and people were rushing out of the church and suddenly I heard a loud sound ‘bam’. Cars were in flames and bodies littered everywhere,” he added.

Timothy Onyekwere said: “We were in the church with my family when we heard the explosion. I just ran out. Now I don’t even know where my children or my wife are. I don’t know how many were killed but there were many dead.”

Others reported that some fatally injured victims ran towards a priest saying “Father anoint me”. A Vatican spokeman called the bombings “blind hatred”.

Bashir Adigun, a local journalist who arrived at the shortly after explosion told the Daily Telegraph the attack appeared to be a car bomb and a vehicle was still burning when he arrived at the scene.

Thousands of angry youths set up burning road blocks on the highway from Abuja leading to Nigeria’s largely Muslim north.

A second explosion struck in a business area of the city of Jos near the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church and gunmen later opened fire on police guarding the area, killing one police officer.

Two bombs were also found in a nearby building and defused, according to Pam Ayuba a government spokesman.

The city of Jos is located on the dividing line between Nigeria’s predominantly Christian south and Muslim north. Thousands have died in communal clashes there over the last decade. Jos was hit by bombings on Christmas Eve last year, which killed at least 32.

The northeastern city of Damaturu was also struck by two blasts, including a suicide car bombing, according to the local police commissioner, where three were killed. A further explosion targeted a church in the northeastern area of Gadaka, but no one was reported killed.

A Boko Haram spokesman, using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa, claimed responsibility for the attacks in an interview with the respected northern newspaper The Daily Trust.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, condemned the “cowardly attacks on families gathered in peace and prayer to celebrate a day which symbolises harmony and goodwill towards others.”

Security sources have told the Daily Telegraph that Boko Haram has recently gained expertise from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in North Africa and al-Shabaab in Somalia and has adopted an increasingly internationalist outlook.

The US Embassy in Abuja had issued a warning on Friday to be “particularly vigilant around churches and other places of worship, locations where large crowhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifds may gather, and areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.”

On August 26, the group launched its first known suicide attack against the UN building in Abuja, killing at least 23 people and wounding 76 wounded in an explosion which gutted the ground floor.

Boko Haram fighters had launched attacks in Damaturu in the days before Christmas, leading to the deaths of at least 61 people, according to the Nigerian government.

On Christmas Day two years ago Umar Farouq Abulmutallab, a former student at University College London who was the son of a Nigerian banker, tried to kill blow himself up using a bomb in his underpants on a trans-Atlantic flight to Detroit.

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