MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Monday for a suicide car bombing of a church in northern Nigeria that killed 12 people the day before.
A suicide bomber drove a car full of explosives into a church during a Sunday serving in Yelwa, on the outskirts of the city of Bauchi, forcing his car through a checkpoint.
“We thank God for giving us victory. We successfully carried out a suicide bombing on a church at Yelwa in Bauchi state,” an emailed statement from Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa said. The email address was the same the sect always uses.
He also warned media they would be attacked if they write anything false about Boko Haram. The sect claimed the bombing of pro-government daily This Day in April.
Boko Haram, which wants to impose an Islamic state on parts of Nigeria, has been blamed for hundreds of killings in bomb or gun attacks over the past two years.
Traditionally it struck authority figures or security forces, but it has increasingly focused some of its energies on Christian worshippers, including a Christmas Day bomb just outside the capital that killed 37 people and wounded 57.
It has become the top security threat in Nigeria, Africa’s leading energy producer, and has linked up with other Islamist groups in the region such as al Qaeda’s north African wing, although it is far from oil facilities in the south.
Attacks on Christians seem aimed at igniting sectarian strife in a nation of 160 million split evenly between Muslims and Christians, though they have failed to spur reprisals.
Boko Haram’s leader Mohammed Shekau has said in the past that attacks on churches are revenge for killings of Muslims by Christians in Nigeria’s volatile “Middle Belt,” where the largely Muslim north and mostly Christian south join.
Reporting by Ibrahim Mshelizza; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Michael Roddy