ABUJA, Nigeria — A suicide bombing of a Catholic church in northern Nigeria on Oct. 28 has been denounced as cowardly by Archbishop Matthew Ndagoso of Kaduna.
“A cowardly, barbarous and horrible act that any ordinary person can only condemn. It is unthinkable that anyone is able to commit such actions, but, unfortunately, it happens,” the archbishop told Fides news agency Oct. 29.
On Sunday, a suicide bomber killed himself and seven others when he drove his explosives-filled jeep into St. Rita's parish in the city of Kaduna during a Mass. Hundreds were wounded in the attack.
The driver was stopped at the security gate outside the church. At first he reversed his car, but then drove straight through the church's wall and set off his explosives. He ripped a large hole in the wall and ceiling of the building, near the sanctuary. The jeep's remains are hardly discernible as a vehicle. The injured were taken to hospitals in the surrounding area.
Though responsibility for the attack has not been claimed, it is widely believed to have been carried out by Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group in the country whose name means “Western education is sinful.”
Local Christians have been asked by both government and religious leaders not to retaliate with further violence.
“I have no direct knowledge of retaliation actions, but as soon as the news about episodes of revenge on behalf of Christians spread, I immediately launched an appeal via radio to calm and (give) peace. Unfortunately, one cannot control everyone,” said Archbishop Ndagoso to Fides.
There have been reports of reprisal attacks in the city committed by Christians.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to redouble efforts to combat terrorism, and Archbishop Ndagoso reported that “the president of the Assembly, who is a Muslim, condemned the attack; today we will see if other Muslim leaders will join in condemning this brutal act.”
He said, “The situation is now calm; the police and the army control the streets. Even in the area of the attack, the population is dedicated to their normal activities.”
Northern Nigeria is primarily Muslim, and the south is predominantly Christian and traditional animist. In 2011, the population of the Archdiocese of Kaduna was 9.2% Catholic.
The Islamist group Boko Haram seeks to overthrow the government and impose shariah law throughout Nigeria. It has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Christians and is reportedly involved with rebels and terrorist groups in the region.
According to The Associated Press, Boko Haram has been responsible for more than 690 killings this year alone, most recently at the cathedral in Bauchi on Sept. 23.