Suicide bombing outside Nigeria church, several injured: witnesses

KANO, Nigeria (AFP) - Several people were injured Thursday outside an evangelist church in north-east Nigeria when a suicide bomber set off his explosive vest amid the country's ongoing battle against an Islamist insurgency.

"There was an explosion outside the ECWA church this morning. A suicide bomber who was restrained from getting into the church blew himself up," said Abubakar Yakubu, who heads the Nigeria Red Cross in Gombe.

"Luckily no one was killed but some people were mildly injured."

A witness said the man arrived during the service at the Evangelist Church of West Africa in Gombe and refused to park his motorcycle outside a security barrier set up by volunteers.

"He insisted on riding through the barrier," said Dahiru Badamasi, who lives in the neighbourhood.

"It was while he was arguing with the volunteers that his suicide belt exploded."

Another witness heard an explosion and rushed outside.

"I saw a man leading three children with their new dresses stained with blood," said Jummai Maifada.

North-east Nigeria has seen a relentless string of attacks blamed on Boko Haram militants.

Gombe, capital of the eponymous state, has until recently been spared the violence that has shaken the neighbouring states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa, where Boko Haram has taken around 20 towns.

But attacks have increased in recent weeks.

On Wednesday a female suicide bomber was killed as she tried to enter a military barracks in Gombe.

Seven others died in a bus explosion Wednesday in a village close to Potiskum, in Yobe state.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who has been frequently criticised for failing to stop the rebels, promised on Thursday to re-equip and re-position the armed forces "to enhance their capacity to win the ongoing war against terror and insurgency."

"We will bring justice to the savage terrorists known as Boko Haram. They will be defeated," he said. "We will not forget. We will not look the other way."

The leader, who is up for re-election in February, has made these types of promises before.

However, the violence in this oil-rich country has continued while private militias have increasing stood in for Nigeria's military in the fight against the militants.

Experts have cast doubt on Nigeria's ability to hold the planned national elections in February due to rising unrest in parts of the north-east.

The extremist group, whose name roughly means "Western education is forbidden", has killed thousands since it began a deadly insurgency in northern Nigeria in 2009.

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