LAGOS (AFP) – A bomb was thrown into an Arabic school in mainly Christian southern Nigeria, wounding at least seven, police said Wednesday, after Christmas attacks sparked fears of sectarian violence in the country.
“A locally made low-capacity explosive was thrown into an Arabic school in Sapele at 10:00 pm yesterday,” said state police spokesman Charles Mouka.
“It was thrown from an unidentified moving car … Six children and one adult were wounded. They are receiving treatment in the hospital. No deaths were recorded and no arrests have been made.”
The children are between five and eight years old, he said. They had been at the school for night Arabic and Koranic lessons, said Mouka.
Christmas bombings occurred in several locations in Nigeria blamed on Islamist group Boko Haram that killed 40 people, with the deadliest an explosion outside a church near the capital Abuja as services were ending.
Nigerian leaders have been seeking to calm tensions amid fears the Christmas attacks could set off sectarian violence in a country roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
The area around the school, which has about 50 students, has been cordoned off, Mouka said.
“We have swept it clean and recovered unexploded bits of the explosives for investigation,” he said. “We are collaborating with other security agencies to ensure we do not have a repeat of the incident.”
Christian leaders have urged authorities to take action against spiralling violence blamed on Boko Haram, with deep frustration over their seeming inability to stop attacks despite heavy-handed military crackdowns.
A Christian leader in Nigeria’s north has warned that “religious war” could result if the problem is not addressed, though he urged Christians not to retaliate.
Nigeria’s top Muslim spiritual leader met President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday over the Christmas attacks and afterward said the violence did not signal a religious conflict.
“I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, between Islam and Christianity,” Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar told journalists after the 90-minute meeting.
“It’s a conflict between evil people and good people. The good people are more than the evil ones, so the good people must come together to defeat the evil ones, and that is the message.”
Jonathan did not speak publicly after the meeting, but his national security adviser urged Christians not to retaliate over the Christmas bombings.
“We are Nigerians. I don’t see any major conflict between the Christian community and Muslim community,” Owoye Azazi said.
“Retaliation is not the answer, because if you retaliate, at what point will it end? Nigeria must survive as a nation.”