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Two blasts rock Nigerian churches on Christmas; 28 killed

December 25, 2011 19:27 IST

At least 28 people were killed on Sunday in two powerful blasts that targeted churches in Nigeria during the Christmas services, amid a series of attacks by a radical Islamic sect in the country's north that claimed nearly 70 lives.

In the first blast, 27 people were killed and many more injured when St Theresa's Church in Madalla near capital Abuja was targeted, media reports said.

The Islamist group Boko Haram claimed the responsibility for the explosion, which came amid gunbattles between militants and the military in northern Nigeria.

Shortly afterwards, a second explosion rocked a church in the central city of Jos, killing at least one person.

The explosions followed a slew of strikes by militants, who attacked several northern cities with explosives and gunfire as soldiers and police went in pursuit.

The country's chief of army staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika, said on Saturday that the attacks started on Thursday by militants of the Boko Haram sect which wants to impose Sharia law in the region.

Nearly 70 people have reportedly died in days of fighting between Nigerian forces and suspected Islamist gunmen in the country's north-east.

However, different security sources gave varied casualty figures, and eye witnesses said the number of dead could surpass 100.

Boko Haram had also carried out an August 2011 suicide attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja, in which more than 20 people were killed.

 National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Yushau Shuaibu was quoted as saying by BBC that Sunday's Abuja explosion had occurred on the street outside the church.

He said the church, which can accommodate up to 1,000 people, had been badly affected by the blast. Witnesses said windows of nearby houses had been shattered by the explosion. Officials at the local hospital said the condition of many of the injured was serious.

A Vatican spokesman condemned the attacks as an act of "blind hatred."

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