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Several feared dead in Nigeria bombing

A suicide bomber has driven a vehicle packed with explosives into a Catholic church in northern Nigeria, causing numerous casualties. Christian mobs have taken to the streets targeting Muslims in reprisal attacks.

People gather outside a church following a blast in Kaduna, Nigeria, Sunday, June 17, 2012. Three church blasts rocked a northern Nigerian state Sunday, officials said, prompting protests in a state that has previously been strained by religious tensions. (AP Photo/Olu Ajayi)

Bombenanschlag auf Kirchen in Nigeria

There were reports that Christian mobs with machetes and sticks had taken to the streets targeting people they suspected to be Muslims on Sunday after the suicide attack in the city of Kaduna.

Police commissioner Olufemi Adenaike said a blast hit St. Rita Catholic Church in the city located, 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Abuja, during the morning mass.

"A number of casualties were evacuated to hospitals," a spokesperson for the National Emergency Agency said, but could not confirm how many people were killed.

The explosion was said to have occurred in the Malali area of the city. Kaduna has been previously hit by attacks blamed on the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.

The Boko Haram is seeking to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, where 160 million people are split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims.

Observers say ome of the attacks on churches appear to have been calculated to stir sectarian tensions along Nigeria's volatile middle belt, where it's largely Christian south and mostly Muslim north meet.

Kaduna lies along that fault line, and many of its neighborhoods are mixed.

A bomb in a church in Kaduna state in June (pictured above) triggered a week of sectarian violence that killed at least 90 people. 

Boko Haram's insurgency in northern and central Nigeria has led to more than 2,800 deaths since 2009.

hc/pfd (dpa, AFP, Reuters)