KADUNA, Nigeria, Dec 25 (Reuters) - Gunmen killed six people
at a church in northeast Nigeria early on Tuesday, the third
year running that Christmas services have come under deadly
attack in the country, the military said.
The strike took place after a Christmas Eve midnight service
outside the town of Potiskum in northeastern Yobe state, where
Islamist sect Boko Haram has carried out several attacks this
"Unknown gunmen attempted to attack Potiskum but were
repelled by the troops. While they were fleeing, they attacked a
church in a village known as Jiri," said military spokesman Eli
Lazarus, who confirmed that six people were killed.
Members of Boko Haram have killed hundreds in a campaign to
impose sharia law in northern Nigeria.
The group killed dozens in a series of bombings across
northern Nigeria on churches on Christmas Day last year,
mirroring similar attacks in 2010 which killed more than 40.
This year the police and army pledged to protect churches,
boosting security in major northern towns and cities and
restricting people's movement.
At least 2,800 people have died in fighting in the largely
Muslim north since Boko Haram launched an uprising against the
government in 2009, watchdog Human Rights Watch says.
Potiskum, which lies in Boko Haram's northeastern
stronghold, has been one of the areas worst affected by the
Security experts believe Boko Haram is targeting worshippers
to spark a religious conflict in a country of 160 million people
split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims.
Many churches in Nigeria's biggest northern city, Kano, and
elsewhere in the north were almost empty for Christmas Day
services on Tuesday, local residents said.
Two people were killed in separate attacks on Tuesday in
Kano, a police source said. He said gunmen riding motorcycles
killed the driver of a government worker and another civilian.
Pope Benedict used part of his Christmas message to the
world on Tuesday to highlight the need for reconciliation in
Nigeria, saying "savage acts of terrorism continue to reap
victims, particularly among Christians".
(Reporting by Isaac Abrak; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Tom