At least 15 people, mostly children and women, were killed and about 150 others were injured after a suicide bomber disguising himself as a Christian attacked a large Catholic church in northern Nigeria's Kaduna city during Sunday morning service, raising fears of renewed sectarian violence.
A suicide bomber driving a Toyota jeep carrying explosives and led by a motorcyclist attacked Saint Rita's Catholic Church in Kaduna on Sunday morning, according to allafrica.com.
According to the country's National Emergency Management Agency, the suicide bomber rammed his car into the barriers surrounding the church.
The blast killed at least 15 people, mostly women and children, and severely injured about 150 people, including the parish priest, the Rev. Fr. Bonet Micah.
A witness, identified only as Andrew, was quoted as saying that the suicide bomber was wearing a cross chain disguising himself to be a Christian. "The bomber ... was wearing a cross chain on his neck; he suddenly resisted church security and hurriedly rammed into the church," he said.
"We just heard a loud sound of explosion when the morning mass was going on and the next thing was that the church building was falling down," Veronica Angusa, a church member who was injured in the attack, was quoted as saying.
While no group had claimed responsibility for the attack, Islamist militant group Boko Haram has targeted Kaduna in recent months. It is believed that Boko Haram, which translates as "Western education is sin," is attacking Christians in the north to incite sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians so that the outfit can press for the separation of the Muslim-majority north from the Christian-majority south.
Local newspapers said commuters in various parts of the Kaduna metropolis were stranded on Sunday due to fears of reprisal attacks.
"I feel more pained in my heart over this unfortunate incident as 90 percent of the victims are children," the Catholic Archbishop of Kaduna Diocese, Matthew Man-Ndagoso, stated. "We pray for their quick recovery and fortitude to bear the loss of those who died ... My appeal is to the Christians, especially the Catholic youths, not to consider reprisal as an option as this will rather create more tension and add to the already bad situation."
According to an Associated Press count, more than 680 people have died in killings and bombings blamed on Boko Haram this year alone.