Gunmen Kill Policeman Guarding Church in Nigeria

Gunmen suspected to be members of a radical Muslim sect drove by a church in northern Nigeria Sunday evening and killed the policeman standing guard outside, a police spokesman said Monday.

Another two people were seriously injured in the church attack that occurred in Maiduguri. The gunmen drove by in a tinted car around 8 p.m. local time and opened fired on the policeman guarding a church where Christians were worshipping inside, said Lawal Abdullahi, according to Agence France-Presse.

The radical sect Boko Haram is suspected to be connected to the Sunday attack. The same group had claimed responsibility for attacks on several churches in Maiduguri on Christmas Eve that resulted in six deaths.

Meanwhile, in the central city of Jos, police reported escalating tension between Christians and Muslims in the area. At least eight people died in the weekend riot that began when Christian youths attacked a car with Muslim passengers returning from a wedding. There have been different accounts of the riot from the Christian and Muslim communities.

A Christian leader said rioters burned down a church with someone in it while a Muslim leader said a mosque was burned down and at least seven Muslims died during the Friday conflict.

Jos, which lies along the border between the mostly Muslim north and Christian south, has a long and bloody history of sectarian violence. On Christmas Eve, coordinated bomb explosions in Jos killed 32 people. The blasts resulted in other conflicts between Muslim and Christian youths that killed dozens of more people. And earlier last year, more than 500 people, mostly women and children, from a Christian village were killed near Jos.

Christian leaders in Jos have tried to clarify that although the conflicts are often described as Muslims against Christians by the media, the violence is fueled moreso by social and economic problems as well as ethnic factors than by religion. They caution against painting the conflicts broadly as religion in nature.

Open Doors, a ministry that works with persecuted believers, reported in its 2011 World Watch List that more than 2,000 Christians died in Nigeria last year in riots caused by Muslim extremists.

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