A suicide bomber who tried to drive an explosives-packed car into a church in northern on Sunday killed at least nine people, including himself, and injured 35, officials said.
The attacker sped his vehicle as he approached a checkpoint near the church in Bauchi State, which had heightened security following previous attacks in the area blamed on Islamist group Boko Haram.
“We have a checkpoint not far from the church which prevented the bomber from gaining access to his target,” said State police commissioner Mohammed Ladan.
“So he rammed the car into a security gate and the car exploded, killing him and eight other people. … Many people were injured but I can’t give you any precise number because the hospital is still trying to take a toll,” he added.
The head of the Nigerian Red Cross in Bauchi state, Adamu Abubakar, told AFP he counted 35 people injured at an area hospital.
Residents said that the explosion caused the church building to collapse, prompting dozens of people to flee seeking refuge, but some ran straight into a fire raging outside.
“There was confusion as residents and churchgoers tried to flee. Some of them out of fright fell into the fire caused by the explosion,” said resident Timothy Joshua.
Another witness, who requested anonymity, said a presumed accomplice tried to escape the scene after the blast went off and was later chased down and killed by enraged residents, although police could not confirm this account.
“The other bomber abandoned the car they came with and wanted to flee, but he was pursued by a resident and worshippers and beaten to death,” this witness said.
Boko Haram has claimed attacks killing more than 1,000 in Nigeria since July 2009, with some of the worst bloodshed coming in the northeast.
The group staged a daring jailbreak in Bauchi in September 2010 during which it said roughly 100 of its members were freed.
Related stories: Boko Haram attack church at Kano University - 20 confirmed dead