Voice of America/US Government
The Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility for five church bombings in Nigeria on Monday. An explosion at the St. Theresa Roman Catholic church near the Nigerian capital Abuja during Christmas morning mass killed at least 27 people.
A second explosion in the central city of Jos near another church was heard. Boko Haram said it struck three other churches.
"The officials who counted them told me that 27 people died," Father Christopher Barde told AFP, adding that the explosion happened as the Christmas morning service was ending.
"As I reached the last entrance, some people met me for blessings and suddenly I heard a bomb blast. It was really terrible."
''There has been an explosion in the Rikkos area of the city [near a church where worshippers were observing the Christmas service],'' Jos resident David Pam told AFP. Police also confirmed the explosions but would not immediately provide details.
After the bombings, a Boko Haram spokesman calling himself Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in an interview with The Daily Trust, the newspaper of record across Nigeria's Muslim north. The sect has used the newspaper in the past to communicate with public.
The Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja that killed at least 24 people. There have been a number of attacks in Suleija area, also outside Abuja. Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for a 4 November attack on Damaturu, Yobe state's capital, that killed more than 100 people.
A string of bomb blasts in the central city of Jos on Christmas Eve 2010 were claimed by Boko Haram. Those attacks killed 32 and wounded 74.
Boko Haram came to prominence in 2009, when its members rioted and burned police stations near its base of Maiduguri, a northeastern city on the cusp of the Sahara Desert.
Nigeria's military brutally quelled the riots, destroying the sect's mosque and arresting its leader, who died in police custody. About 700 people died during the crackdown.
While initially targeting enemies via hit-and-run assassinations from the back of motorbikes after the 2009 riot, violence by Boko Haram has evolved to well-planned and high profile bombings aimed at inflicting mass casualties.
Nigeria's population is almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. The 12 northern states are under Sharia law.