Gunmen killed six people at a church in northeast Nigeria early today, the third year running that Christmas services have come under deadly attack in the country, the military said.
The strike took
place after a Christmas Eve midnight service outside the town of
Potiskum in northeastern Yobe state, where Islamist sect Boko Haram has
carried out several attacks this year.
"Unknown gunmen attempted
to attack Potiskum but were repelled by the troops. While they were
fleeing, they attacked a church in a village known as Jiri," said
military spokesman Eli Lazarus, who confirmed that six people were
Members of Boko Haram have killed hundreds in a campaign to impose sharia law in northern Nigeria.
group killed dozens in a series of bombings across northern Nigeria on
churches on Christmas Day last year, mirroring similar attacks in 2010
which killed more than 40.
This year the police and army pledged
to protect churches, boosting security in major northern towns and
cities and restricting people's movement.
At least 2,800 people
have died in fighting in the largely Muslim north since Boko Haram
launched an uprising against the government in 2009, watchdog Human
Rights Watch says.
Potiskum, which lies in Boko Haram's northeastern stronghold, has been one of the areas worst affected by the insurgency.
experts believe Boko Haram is targeting worshippers to spark a
religious conflict in a country of 160 million people split roughly
equally between Christians and Muslims.
Many churches in Nigeria's
biggest northern city, Kano, and elsewhere in the north were almost
empty for Christmas Day services on Tuesday, local residents said.
people were killed in separate attacks today in Kano, a police source
said. He said gunmen riding motorcycles killed the driver of a
government worker and another civilian.
Pope Benedict XVI used
part of his Christmas message to the world on Tuesday to highlight the
need for reconciliation in Nigeria, saying "savage acts of terrorism
continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians.