At least 52 people were killed in religious rioting sparked by three suicide bombings against churches in northern Nigeria, where the dead were piled up on Monday in mortuaries and cemeteries in the city of Kaduna.
Rioting broke out on Sunday after suicide car bombers attacked three churches in northern Nigeria, killing at least 19 people and wounding dozens.
Christian youths had set up roadblocks and dragged Muslims from cars or motorbikes and killed them, witnesses said.
Boko Haram Islamists on Monday claimed suicide attacks at three churches that sparked reprisals by Christian mobs who rampaged and burned mosques, with at least 52 people dead.
A Reuters reporter visited two hospitals in Kaduna.
At the St Gerald Hospital, spokesman Sunday Aliyu said there were 40 bodies in the hospital morgue and 72 people being treated for burns and other wounds. At Barau Dikko Hospital, Matron Hassana Garba confirmed 12 dead and two injured people being treated.
On Monday evening residents reported gunfire and explosions in Damaturu, the capital of northeast Yobe state and the site of several previous attacks by Boko Haram.
“We are all indoors, the explosions and gunshots have been going on since 5pm. It’s boom, boom, boom, everywhere,” Oluchi Jonah, a local resident, said by telephone.
Local police were not available for comment.
In November last year, 65 people were killed in attacks claimed by Boko Haram on churches, mosques and police stations in Damaturu, where security forces often clash with Islamists in gun battles.
Corpses littered church grounds in parts of Kaduna on Monday. They were piled one on top of the other in an old cemetery, some charred. A soldier guarding the site said there were at least 30 bodies of people killed in the violence there.
They had been dragged to the secluded cemetery, in a majority Christian neighborhood, by the mobs, he said.
“Some people were killed and dumped down wells. We’ve had violence before, but this is the worst I’ve seen,” he said.
A 24-hour curfew imposed by the Kaduna state government on Sunday largely succeeded in restoring order, residents said.
The violence stoked fears of wider sectarian conflict in Nigeria, an OPEC member and Africa’s top oil producer that is home to the world’s largest equal mix of Christians and Muslims.
Mohammed Inuwa said he was lucky to escape with his life. He hid in a bush when rampaging Christian youths pulled Muslims off their motorcycles and beat them to death.
“They were mostly killing okada [motorbike taxi riders]. I was hiding in the bush while all this was going on. If they saw me, that would be it,” the second-hand clothes seller said, estimating 15 people were killed right by where he was hiding.
Boko Haram church bombings seem calculated to trigger wider sectarian strife, often striking at the heart of Nigeria’s volatile “Middle Belt,” where the mostly Christian south and Muslim north meet.
The Islamists’ leader, Abubakar Shekau, has said the attacks on Christians were in revenge for the killings of Muslims.