Boko Haram claims Nigeria church suicide attack

A suicide bomber drove a car full of explosives into a church in northern Nigeria on Sunday. (Reuters)

Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram on Monday claimed responsibility for a weekend suicide attack on a church in the country’s northeast which killed 15 people and wounded 40 others.

In an emailed statement to journalists, Boko Haram also threatened renewed attacks on journalists and media houses.

“Today God gave us victory by launching a suicide attack on a church in Yelwa neighborhood in Bauchi city,” the group said in the statement written in the Hausa language widely spoken in Nigeria’s north.

While the statement could not be confirmed as authentic, it came from the same email address previously used for similar claims.

The statement did not give a specific reason for the Sunday church attack or disclose the identity of the suicide bomber.

In Sunday’s attack, a suicide bomber tried to drive an explosives-packed car into a church.

The attacker approached a checkpoint near the church in Bauchi State, which has previously been hit by Boko Haram and where tension between Muslim and Christian ethnic groups has led to violence in the past.

He was stopped at the checkpoint and instead rammed his car into the security gate around the church and set off his explosive device.

The Boko Haram statement warned journalists over their reporting on the group.

“We are keeping tabs on all comments being made about us ... Let no one make any entreaty to us when we perfect our plan and start our operation, especially against journalists,” the statement said.

The statement accused journalists of “unbalanced reporting” by publishing statements issued by the Nigerian authorities while ignoring or altering its statements.

A suicide bomber on April 26 blew up his explosives-laden car at the Abuja office of This Day newspaper, one of Nigeria’s most prominent dailies, killing at least five people.

Another bomber targeted a complex housing newspaper offices, including for This Day, in the northern city of Kaduna in a botched attack on the same day.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks and threatened to target other media houses, including the Hausa-language services of Radio France and Voice of America.

The group’s insurgency has killed more than 1,000 people since mid-2009.

Its attacks have grown more sophisticated and have increasingly affected a wider geographical area, spreading from their base in the extreme northeast across the wider north and down to the capital Abuja, in the center of the country.

It claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of U.N. headquarters in Abuja in August which killed at least 25 people.

Its deadliest attack yet occurred in January in the northern city of Kano, when coordinated bombings and shootings left at least 185 people dead.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.

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