Worthy News Africa Service
ABUJA/JOS (Worthy News)-- Two people suspected of planning to bomb a Nigerian church were killed before they reached their destination in the central city of Jos, adding to tensions in an area already troubled by deadly religious and ethnic violence, officials said Sunday, March 20.
"We suspect the two men were trying to plant a bomb outside the church while Sunday service was on when the bomb exploded, killing both of them," said Gregory Yenlong, the commissioner for information of Plateau State to which Jos belongs.
Police said the device they were carrying on a motorcycle exploded prematurely.
Authorities blocked off the nearby location around the ECWA Church in Nasarawa Gwom area of Jos where smoke could be seen rising from the neighborhood.
"A major tragedy was aborted today, because there was a very large congregation," gathered during the worship service, Yenlong told reporters.
Plateau state police commissioner Abdulrahman Akano said the bomb went off as the men drove through the city of Jos, a scene of frequent Muslim-Christian violence.
Some earlier reports said the bomb went off near a church, but the Voice of America (VOA) network quoted Akano as saying it was not known where the two men were headed. He reportedly added that Christian religious youths who believed the men had planned to attack their community then set fire to the corpses.
Jos has experienced years of sectarian violence stemming from disputes over land, jobs, and power. Thousands have been killed in recurring battles between gangs of Muslims and Christians.
Sunday's attack outside the ECWA Church followed recent clashes between Christians and Muslims that killed over 200 people in the Plateau region alone, said New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
The violence broke out after bomb blasts in Jos on Christmas Eve killed some 80 people.
A radical Islamic sect known as Boko Haram, or "Western education is a sin," claimed responsibility for those explosions.
It was not immediately clear whether the group was behind Sunday's church bombing.
Jos sits in Nigeria's so-called Middle Belt, where the mainly Muslim north meets the predominantly Christian south.
Violence across central and northern Nigeria has risen with the approach of nationwide elections next month, according to analysts. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).