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Six dead in car bomb attack at Nigeria church

From Hassan John, for CNN
March 11, 2012 -- Updated 1854 GMT (0254 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Six people confirmed dead in Nigeria court attack
  • Tensions run high after attack on a Catholic church
  • The attack happened in Jos, the site of previous violence targeting Christians

Jos, Nigeria (CNN) -- Tensions ran high in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday in the aftermath of an explosion outside a Catholic church that left six people dead, according to hospital and government officials.

The apparent car bomb attack happened outside of St. Finbar's Catholic Church, according to Plateau Gov. Jonah David Jang.

A spokesman for the Plateau state government, Machias Abraham Yiljab, said three bodies were at the scene of the explosion.

Ishaya Pam, chief medical director of the Jos University Teaching Hospital, said in a statement that the hospital had three bodies and was treating 14 people for wounds suffered in the explosion.

He said additional people had been wounded in the blast, but had been treated and released.

Images sent by Mark Lipdo, program coordinator for the Stefanos Foundation, showed a charred crater in the pavement, a vehicle bumper in the road and smoke rising in the distance.

Stefanos is a foundation that aims to help persecuted Christians in Nigeria and elsewhere.

After the explosion, youths took over a roadblock on the street leading to the church, and an agitated crowd of residents upset with the violence gathered nearby to talk with Jang.

'This is an unfortunate situation and we will do all we can to prevent future occurrences," Jang said. "We all must be calm and we all must leave things in the hands of God who knows why he has allowed this to happen."

iReport photo from the scene

The explosion at St. Finbar's church was the second in two weeks at a Christian church. On February 26, a car packed with explosives rammed into the compound of the Cocin (Church of Christ) headquarters, killing three people.

It was not clear if anyone had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Nigeria has suffered a rash of attacks on churches and mosques in the last year.

In December, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in several northern states following a series of Christmas Day attacks on churches.

A shadowy Islamic militant group called Boko Haram has been frequently blamed for the violence on Christians, who have sometimes responded with reprisal attacks.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, Jonathan urged residents to refrain from reprisal attacks.

"The President urges Nigerians not to despair or be discouraged by the persistence of the attacks in spite of government's efforts to deal decisively with the menace of terrorism within the country's borders because despite seeming appearances to the contrary, government is indeed winning the war against the terrorists and will continue to progressively destroy their ability to unleash murderous attacks on peaceful, law-abiding Nigerians," spokesman Reuben Abati said in the statement.

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