Nigeria's Islamist terror group Boko Haram, which has killed numerous Christians in the recent past, has claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a church in the central city of Jos on Sunday that left at least three Christians, including a toddler, dead and 50 injured.
"We carried out the attack on COCIN (the Christian Church of Nigeria) church in Jos today and we did what we did as part of our resolve to avenge the killings and dehumanization of Muslims in Jos in the last 10 years," Boko Haram's spokesman, Abul Qaqa, told Nigerian media in a conference call Sunday.
A car carrying explosives struck the church compound during the worship service and exploded, according to local media. "We attacked simply because it's a church and we can decide to attack any other church," Boko Haram warned. "We have just started."
Sunday's attack led to a clash between a few Christian youth and local Muslims. Some reports say three Muslims were killed and a few shops were burned in the violence.
The assault on the church in Jos was apparently aimed at reigniting sectarian tensions in the city, which has witnessed sporadic clashes between Muslims and Christians for years. Boko Haram wants to create an Islamic state in the Muslim-majority north and rioting helps it to make a case for secession from the Christian-majority south.
Jos lies in the Middle Belt between the north and the south of Africa's most populous nation.
"Those who seek to divide us by fear and terror will not succeed," President Goodluck Jonathan said in a statement following the suicide attack. "The indiscriminate bombing of Christians and Muslims is a threat to all peace-loving Nigerians."
The actual name of the group is Jama'atul Alhul Sunnah Lidda'wati wal jihad, which translates as "people for the propagation of the prophet's teachings and jihad." However, the group is locally known as Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sin," as Mohammad Yusuf, the Islamist cleric who formed the group about a decade ago in Maiduguri in the northeastern state of Borno, was against Western education. Yusuf was from the Salafi movement, which has fueled jihadist terrorism in several parts of the world as a legitimate expression of Islam.
It is believed that Boko Haram has gained technical sophistication and weaponry with help from groups like al-Shabaab in southern Somalia and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
The terror group, which also targets police and Muslim civilians, has warned that all Christians living in the north should move to the south unless they want to be killed.
Boko Haram's attacks escalated and Christians became one of the primary targets after the victory of President Jonathan, a Christian from the south and a leader of the People's Democratic Party, in the April 2011 election.
Christians complain that the government has failed to give protection to churches despite numerous attacks.