A suicide bomber rammed an SUV loaded with explosives into a Catholic church holding Mass in Nigeria, killing at least seven people and wounding more than 100.
The attack in the Malali neighbourhood of Kaduna sparked reprisal killings in the northern city.
As rescuers tried to reach the wounded, angry youths armed with machetes and clubs beat to death two Muslims passing by the still-smouldering ruins of St Rita’s church.
An Associated Press reporter saw the men’s corpses outside the worship hall, as police and soldiers ordered Christians and Muslims to go home before more violence broke out in the mixed area.
There are widespread fears more reprisal killings and religious violence could follow in the city and elsewhere along Nigeria’s uneasy religious fault line separating its largely Christian south from its predominantly Muslim north.
The car bombing, the latest high-casualty attack targeting churches, happened at around 9am. Witnesses said the suicide bomber ploughed his SUV past a gate and a security guard before ramming into the church’s wall and detonating the explosives hidden inside the vehicle. The blast left shattered glass and blood across the floors of the church’s sanctuary.
Rescuers found the bodies of seven worshippers and the suicide bomber after the attack.
Saidu Adamu, a spokesman for Kaduna state government, said the rest of the city was peaceful.
Reuben Abati, a spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan, said the nation’s leader condemned the attack. “The persistence of messengers of evil will not prevail over the will of the government and the people to secure peace and safety,” Mr Abati said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as Muslims were celebrating the end of Eid al-Adha holiday in Nigeria. In recent days, rumours have circulated that the radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram, which is blamed for hundreds of killings this year alone, might try to launch an attack during the holiday.
The sect has used suicide car bombs against churches in the past, most noticeably a 2011 Christmas Day attack on a Catholic church in Madalla, near Nigeria’s capital. That attack and assaults elsewhere in the country killed at least 44 people.
An unclaimed car bombing in Kaduna at Easter killed at least 38 people on a busy road after witnesses say it was turned away from a church.
Christians and Muslims largely live in peace, work together and inter-marry in Nigeria. However, Kaduna, which has a large Christian population, has seen hundreds killed in recent years in religious and ethnic violence.