Suicide attackers have struck in Nigeria's flashpoint city of Jos, killing at least three churchgoers in the second such attack in two weeks. President Goodluck Jonathan has urged residents to avoid reprisals.
For the second time in two weeks Nigeria's central flashpoint city of Jos has been targeted by suicide bombers who tried to crash their bomb-laden car into the city's St Finbar's Catholic church during Sunday mass.
The attackers set off their explosives at the gate of the church compound when security workers tried to slow down the vehicle. The blast killed three churchgoers and four assailants, according to local emergency officials.
Nigerian President Goodluck Johathan urged Jos residents to avoid reprisals as angered Christians set up road blocks near the church. On 26 February a suicide car bombing at another church claimed three lives and resulted in the reprisal killings of at least two Muslims.
No responsibility has been claimed for Sunday's attack. Past attacks have been claimed by the Islamist sect Boko Haram.
Emergency workers said if the bombers had reached the church building the death toll could have been far higher. The blast shattered church windows and cracked a wall. The car's engine was flung into the church compound.
Jos has been the main flashpoint in the past decade for tensions between Nigeria's mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south. The violence, say experts, often has to do more with local politics, economics and rights to grazing lands.
The worst recent attack on a Catholic church in Nigeria was on December 25, when 44 people were killed during Christmas mass in a town outside Abuja.
Attack on police post
In another incident late on Saturday evening in the northeastern town of Bama, police say they repelled an attack on a police post by suspected Islamists, killing one and arresting 11 others.
A police spokesman said the gunmen were also suspected of being members of Boko Haram.
The sect has said it wants to create an Islamic state across Nigeria's impoverished mainly Muslim north and and the imposition of Sharia law, but some analysts say Boko Haram has differing factions with varying interests.
On Thursday, two European hostages - a Briton and an Italian - were killed by their captors during a failed Nigerian-British military attempt to free them in the northwestern town of Sokoto. The pair had been held for almost a year by what officials said was a Boko Haram faction. A spokesman for the sect denied any involvement in the kidnapping.
tj,ipj/pfd (AFP, Reuters, AP)