The assaults were the latest in a series targeting churches in Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, with many of the previous attacks claimed by Islamist group Boko Haram.
Witnesses and a rescue official said a suicide bomber drove his car towards a church in the central Nigerian city of Jos. Although he did not manage to get inside the church, the force of the blast caused the building to collapse, police said.
“Forty-one wounded, the bomber and two others died … The wounded were receiving treatment at Evangel Hospital, Jos,” local government spokesperson Pam Ayuba said.
“The suicide bomber did not drive into the church before the explosion. He was in front of it,” police spokesperson Abuh Emmanuel said.
“The church building collapsed entirely due to the intensity of the bombing.”
A reporter at the scene said that Christian youths had assaulted local Muslims following the bombing.
The second attack killed at least one person and wounded several when gunmen opened fire during a service in the north-eastern town of Biu, Samson Bukar, the local Christian Association of Nigeria chairperson said.
“One female worshipper was killed while several others were wounded, two of them critically. The gunmen escaped after the attack.”
Boko Haram’s insurgency has killed more than 1 000 people since mid-2009, especially in Nigeria’s Muslim-dominated north.
Its attacks have grown increasingly sophisticated and have affected a wider area, spreading from their base in the northeast across the wider north and down to the capital Abuja, in the centre of the country.
It claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja in August which killed at least 25 people as well as a suicide attack on the Abuja office of one of the country’s most prominent newspapers.
Boko Haram also claimed a bomb attack at a church near the capital on Christmas day which killed at least 44 people dead.
The group has continually widened its targets, which have included security forces, churches and police headquarters in the capital.
Jos lies on the fault line between the Muslim-majority north and the Christian-dominated south. Repeated cycles of clashes and reprisals attacks in and around Jos have left thousands dead in recent years.
Biu, the site of the second attack, is located in the northeastern state of Borno, which has been Boko Haram’s base.
The group’s mosque and headquarters were located in the Borno state capital of Maiduguri until a 2009 military assault destroyed them, an operation that left some 800 people dead.
Heavy-handed military crackdowns have so far failed to stop the group. Members are believed to have received training in northern Mali from al-Qaeda’s North African branch.
An attempt at dialogue between the government and Boko Haram in March collapsed when a mediator quit and a spokesperson for what is seen as the group’s main faction said they could not trust the government.
There have been conflicting claims in recent weeks over whether a new attempt at dialogue has got underway. – AFP