LAGOS — A suicide bomber smashed his explosives-laden car through the gates of a packed church during Sunday service in Jos, central Nigeria, killing three people and injuring dozens, church leaders said.
Witnesses said a black car crashed through the gate of a perimeter fence and exploded a few metres from the wall of an 800-seater church hall in the volatile city.
The attack is the latest in a country grappling with almost daily bomb and gun assaults, most of them blamed on the Islamist sect Boko Haram.
“The bomber drove at top speed, and there was a loud explosion and everything was black,” said churchgoer Ezekiel Gomos, who said he had seen a black car driving fast towards the church hall around 30 minutes into the service.
The church was about 80 percent full at the time and most of the victims were among latecomers to the service, he said.
“If he had driven into the middle of the church it could have been worse, but God was in control,” said Gomos.
John Haruna, the minister who was leading the service in the Church of Christ in Nigeria, said the bomber “forced himself through the gate, into the church (yard) and the bomb exploded” only three metres from the walls of the church.
Mark Lipdo, another church member and activist with the Christian human rights Stefanos Foundation, said pieces of human flesh littered the church premises and dozens of parked cars had been destroyed.
Nigerian emergency services spokesman Yushau Shuaib said three people had been killed and 38 wounded. Church leaders said a total of 50 wounded were being treated at two hospitals.
The city of Jos and its environs is one of the most volatile areas in Nigeria, where hundreds of people have been killed in a spate of sectarian clashes between Muslim and Christian ethnic groups, particularly over land disputes.
Boko Haram has been blamed for a wave of increasingly bloody gun and bomb attacks in Africa’s most populous country in recent months, mostly in the Muslim-dominated north.
Incidents of attacks are also growing in the central region, the so-called middle belt which divides the north from the mainly Christian south.
Last Sunday several people were wounded in an explosion near a church in the town of Suleija outside the capital, Abuja.
Boko Haram has targeted Christians on several previous occasions, notably the bombing of a Catholic church that killed 44 on Christmas Day near Abuja.