Security warnings about a possible bomb attack by the deadly Boko Haram strike in Northern Nigeria during Easter, have been justified, with two large bomb explosions near a church in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna on Easter Sunday.
At least 36 persons died, residents, police and rescue officials confirmed Monday.
Officials previously put the death toll at 20, with nearby motorcycle taxi driver bearing the brunt of the blast, but on Monday announced that 36 people were killed.
“Twenty died on the spot while 16 others died on admission in hospitals,” said Abubakar Zakari Adamu, spokesman for Kaduna state’s emergency management agency.
Residents suggested the explosions, which left many hurt, was caused by two car bombs parked outside the church, in a stark reminder of Christmas Day attacks in Nigeria that left dozens dead.
A spokesman for the national emergency management agency said most of the victims appeared to be motorcyle taxi drivers who were in the area at the time.
Police confirmed the explosions were bombs, but did not comment further.
“We have a bomb explosion. We are trying to sort things out,” police spokesman Aminu Lawal told AFP.
Residents reported seeing dead and injured being taken away. One resident said he saw at least two dead bodies.
“While we were there, two dead bodies were brought out and loaded onto a waiting van along with 10 injured, but while the recovery and rescue operation was going on we were chased away by soldiers and policemen who cordoned off the area,” he said.
Another resident said that “from my balcony, I could see policemen loading the dead and the injured into waiting vans.”
One resident said the explosion was strong enough to shake his house and cause his ceiling to cave in. He ran to the site, which had already been cordoned off, but he said he could see damage to the Assemblies of God Church and cars.
Islamist group Boko Haram carried out a series of attacks on churches and other locations on Christmas Day. The worst of those attacks occurred at a church outside the capital Abuja, where 44 people died.
Authorities as well as foreign embassies had warned of the possibility of an attack on Easter Sunday.
The Islamist group’s increasingly bloody insurgency has left more than 1,000 people dead since mid-2009. Police and soldiers have often been the victims of such attacks, though Christians have occasionally been targeted as well.
The group also claimed responsibility for the August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja which killed 25 people.
Its deadliest attack yet occurred in the northern city of Kano on January 20, when coordinated bombings and shootings left at least 185 people dead.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
Kaduna is a major cultural and economic centre in Nigeria’s north.