Nigeria suicide blast kills at least two worshippers

A satellite image of Bauchi town, north Nigeria. Photo/GOOGLEMAP

A suicide bomber who tried to ram an explosives-packed car into a church in Nigeria on Sunday killed a woman and a child while badly wounding dozens more, the Red Cross said.

The attacker targeted the St. John's Catholic Church in the northern city of Bauchi, where tight security was imposed after a wave church bombings claimed by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram.

Worshippers were being screened outside the building when the bomber approached, ramming his car into the line of people waiting to enter Sunday services, the head of the Red Cross in Bauchi state, Adamu Abubakar said.

"We have three dead in all, including the bomber, a woman and a child. Forty-eight others were seriously injured in the explosion," he told AFP. He said the church building was not damaged in the blast.

Officials said the attack occurred in the Wunti area of Bauchi city, capital of Bauchi state.

Suicide blasts targeting Christian Sunday services were a near weekly occurrence in Nigeria earlier this year, but the violence had ebbed recently.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, the attack resembled those previously claimed by Boko Haram, blamed for killing more than 1,400 people in northern and central Nigeria since 2010.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a similar attack on June 3 in Bauchi city in which a suicide bomber tried to drive a vehicle packed with explosives into a church, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens more.

Since re-launching its insurgency in 2010, the group's attacks have grown increasingly deadly and sophisticated, including suicide bombings at the UN headquarters in Abuja and an office for one of the country's most prominent newspapers.

The deadliest attack so far was in Kano in January, when at least 185 people died in a series of coordinated bombings and shootings.

Muslims have often been its victims, but President Goodluck Jonathan warned that the group was seeking to spark a religious conflict with the series of attacks on Christians.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, is divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.

The government recently said it was engaging in back-channel talks in an effort to halt the violence.

A previous attempt at dialogue this year collapsed when a mediator quit over leaks to the media and a Boko Haram spokesman said they could not trust the government.

Boko Haram is believed to have several factions, including a hardcore Islamist wing.