Six shot dead in Nigeria church

 

Gunmen opened fire on a church service in Nigeria, killing six people and wounding 10, the church's pastor said, the latest in a string of attacks that has raised fears of sectarian conflict in Africa's most populous country.

"The attackers started shooting sporadically. They shot through the window of the church, and many people were killed including my wife," Pastor Johnson Jauro told the Reuters news agency by telephone from his Deeper Life church in Nasarawa, Gombe state in northern Nigeria.

"Many of my members who attended the church service were also injured."

The attack followed a warning from violent Islamist sect Boko Haram published in local newspapers on Tuesday that Christians had three days to leave majority Muslim northern Nigeria or they would be killed.

Analysts said it looked increasingly likely the group - or some factions within it - wanted to trigger reprisals from Christians against Muslims in the nation of 160 million split roughly evenly between the two faiths.

The shadowy militant group also claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks across Nigeria on Christmas Day, including one at a church near the capital Abuja that killed at least 37 people and wounded 57.

Most Christians live in the south and most Muslims in the north, but many communities are mixed.

Gombe state's police commissioner was not immediately available to comment on the violence.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeast and two other regions in Nigeria on Dec. 31st, in a bid to contain a growing insurgency by Boko Haram, whose members say they want to apply Islamic sharia law across Nigeria.

The attacks targeting Christian houses of worship have strained Nigeria's already fractious north-south divide.

Christian associations have accused Jonathan of not doing enough to contain the Islamist threat and have warned the violence could provoke a sectarian civil war.

Two suspected Nigerian Islamist sect members were arrested on Thursday after an attack which killed two people, the military said, as authorities stepped up a crackdown on the increasingly violent group.

"We have arrested two of the Boko Haram members who killed a man and his son in Dala on Wednesday night. They left behind their handsets through which we were able to trace them," said Colonel Victor Ebhemele, operations officer of the joint task force operating in Borno state.

Dala is a ward in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, a remote dusty region which sits on borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad. These borders have been closed as part of Jonathan's emergency measures.

Ebhemele said there were three bomb blasts in Maiduguri on Wednesday evening but there were no casualties.

Reuters