Jos (Nigeria): A series of unprecedented Christmas Eve bomb blasts and attacks on churches have left at least 38 people dead in Nigeria as authorities worked on Saturday to keep the violence from spreading.
Seven explosions went off in two different areas of the flashpoint city of Jos in central Nigeria, killing 32 people and injuring 74, many of them as they were doing their Christmas shopping, police said.
In the city of Maiduguri in northern Nigeria, suspected members of an Islamist sect that launched an uprising last year attacked three churches, leaving six people dead and one of the churches burnt, an army spokesman said.
There was no immediate indication the incidents in the vast country`s north and central regions were linked.
The situation was especially tense in Jos, which has been previously hit by sectarian unrest that many observers say has been stoked by politics and which has killed hundreds this year.
Police sought to calm the situation after some residents reported that a gang of youths had barricaded a road leading to an area where one blast occurred and had set about five vehicles ablaze.
"We lost 32 and 74 were injured," Plateau state police commissioner Abdulrahman Akano said.
Previous violence in the region has often involved inter-communal clashes and reprisals, and the explosions marked a dramatic turn in the situation.
"This is the very first time explosives of this magnitude are involved," said Akano.
Police had not determined who was behind the blasts, he said, adding it appeared dynamite was used.
"People were doing their shopping," he said of the areas where the explosions went off. "The place targeted had all kinds of people there -- Muslims, non-Muslims."
Jos, the capital of Plateau state, is in the so-called middle-belt region between the predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south and has long been a hotspot of ethnic and religious friction in Nigeria.
Local rights groups say 1,500 people have died in inter-communal violence in the Jos region this year alone.