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At least 50 dead in three Nigeria church bombings, reprisal attacks

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 18, 2012 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Bystanders outside Sharon Church after it was hit by a suicide bomb attack in Kaduna, Nigeria, on June 17, 2012.
Bystanders outside Sharon Church after it was hit by a suicide bomb attack in Kaduna, Nigeria, on June 17, 2012.
  • NEW: Nigerian Red Cross Society: More than 130 people are injured
  • NEW: The victims include those harmed in reprisal attacks, the group says
  • The Nigerian president vows to "fight these terrorists until there are none left"
  • Two bombings happen in the town of Zaria; a third occurs in the city of Kaduna

Abuja, Nigeria (CNN) -- Three church bombings and retaliatory attacks in northern Nigeria killed at least 50 people Sunday and injured more than 130 others, the Nigerian Red Cross Society said.

The series of attacks began when a suicide bomber drove at high speed through a barricade at the EWCA Goodnews Wusasa Zaria church around 9 a.m., congregation member Lucy Bello said.

That blast left at least 24 people dead and 125 injured, some in critical condition, according to a Kaduna state government official who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Nigerian Red Cross Society, however, reported that two people were killed and 22 injured in the attack.

Bello, who had bruises from the explosion, said the dead and wounded were thrown to the ground by the blast.

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Within minutes, another explosion occurred at the Christ the King Catholic Church in Zaria, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

At least 10 people were killed in that attack and more than 50 were injured, the state government official said.

Again, the Nigerian Red Cross Society offered a conflicting report, saying that 16 people were killed and 31 injured in that attack.

Later, at least 10 people were killed in a bombing at a church in the city of Kaduna, Red Cross spokesman Andronicus Adeyemo said.

Christian youths in Zaria and Kaduna reacted violently, burning tires and blocking major roads. The Kaduna state government imposed a 24-hour curfew.

Thirty-two people were killed and 78 injured in the third blast, including victims of the reprisal attacks, the Nigerian Red Cross Society said.

The bombings are the latest in a string of violence directed at churches. A week ago, a car bomb killed five people during services at a church in Jos, also in northern Nigeria. Angry crowds wielding makeshift clubs fought with police after chasing security forces away from the destroyed church. Three more people died in the clashes.

And two weeks ago, two church bombings in the region killed at least 15 people.

No one immediately took responsibility for Sunday's attacks, though Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan suggested they were the work of Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group.

"We will not let Boko Haram intimidate our Christian community or police officers. We will fight these terrorists until there are none left," he wrote on Twitter page Sunday.

Boko Haram has previously carried out attacks, including at churches.

The group also refers to itself as the "Nigerian Taliban" and seeks to overthrow the government and replace it with a regime based on Islamic law.

"Boko Haram" means "Western education is forbidden."

CNN's Vladimir Duthiers and Nana Karikari-apau and journalist Safiya Akau contributed to this report.

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