Christmas Eve attacks kill at least 38 in Nigeria

JOS/MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, (Reuters) – Explosions in  Nigeria’s central region killed 32 people on Christmas Eve and  six people died in attacks on two churches in the northeast of  Africa’s most populous nation, officials said today.
Last night, a series of bombs were detonated during  Christmas Eve celebrations in villages near the central city of  Jos, killing at least 32 people while 74 were in a critical  condition, the state police commissioner said.
Nigeria’s army chief said the blasts were not part of  religious clashes which flare up sporadically as tensions bubble  under the surface in a country where the population is split  roughly equally between Muslims and Christians.
“It (Jos explosions) was caused by a series of bomb blasts.  That is terrorism, it’s a very unfortunate incident,” Azubuike  Ihejirika said in the southern city of Port Harcourt.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday condemned the  attacks and sent his condolences to the families of the victims.
“I assure all Nigerians that we shall unearth those behind  the Jos bomb explosion and apprehend them to face the law,”  Jonathan said in the capital Abuja.
The attacks come at a difficult time for Jonathan, who is in  running a controversial campaign ahead of the ruling party’s  primaries on Jan. 13.
A ruling party pact says that power within the People’s  Democratic Party (PDP) should rotate between the mostly Muslim  north and largely Christian south every two terms.
Jonathan is a southerner who inherited office when President  Umaru Yar’Adua, a northerner, died during his first term this  year and some northern factions in the ruling party are opposed  to his candidacy.
Jonathan faces a challenge from former Vice President Atiku  Abubakar for the ruling party nomination, and some fear any  unrest in Africa’s most populous nation will be exploited by  rivals during campaigning.
“What happened (in Jos) was not religious it was political  … the aim of the masterminds is to pit Christians against  Muslims and start another round of violence,” the governor of  Plateau state said.
In a separate incident, at least six people were killed in  what appeared to be religiously motivated attacks on two  churches in the northeastern city of Maiduguri.
Attackers threw petrol bombs late on Friday at a church in  the city, killing five people, including a Baptist pastor. A  security guard at a nearby church died in a similar assault.
“This is a worrisome situation and the government will do  all it can to fish out the perpetrators of this evil act,” the  governor of Borno State, Ali Sheriff, said today.
“We must ensure that adequate security is provided for all  citizens to worship freely without fear of molestation.”
Hundreds of people died in religious and ethnic clashes at  the start of the year in the “Middle Belt”, the central region  where the mostly-Muslim north meets the predomnantly Christian  south.
There have been localised outbreaks of violence since then.
The tension is rooted in decades of resentment between  indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying  for control of fertile farmlands and for economic and political  power with migrants and settlers from the north.

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