FEARS of a new sectarian civil war in Nigeria intensified yesterday after another 24 hours of violence in which attackers bombed an Islamic school and gunmen shot dead a three-year-old girl and her parents in a mainly Christian village.
Nigerian churches tightened security and the country's leaders attempted to calm tensions after the latest wave of attacks in Africa's most populous nation, where security forces are fighting the Islamic militant group Boko Haram.
The violence followed a series of co-ordinated Christmas Day bombings by the al Qa'ida-linked group which killed as many as 40 people in churches throughout the country and led to the burning of 30 Christian-owned businesses.
The latest sectarian incidents began in a predominantly Christian area of southern Nigeria's Delta state on Tuesday night when attackers threw a bomb from a moving car into an Arabic school, wounding six children and an adult.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack which was carried out with a "locally made" explosive, according to police. The injured children were between five and eight years old and had been at the school, which has about 50 students, for evening Arabic and Koranic lessons.
In Nigeria's ethnically and religiously mixed Plateau state, armed herdsmen from a predominantly Muslim group shot dead three members of a Christian family. Rivalries in Plateau are centred around land and power between local people and migrants from other areas.
Women wept over the bullet-riddled bodies of a husband and wife in their 30s and their child. They were said to be Christians from the local Berom tribe.
A state spokesman quoted the villagers as saying that attackers were suspected to be Fulani tribesmen, a mostly Muslim group which has been blamed for previous raids.
Mary Pam, the mother of Philip Francis, one of the victims, said: "When the Fulani herdsmen came around late in the night, I managed to escape through the window before they killed my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter with guns."
This week's attacks followed a series of violent clashes last week between Boko Haram and government forces that resulted in the deaths of nearly 70 people and led to 90,000 people fleeing their homes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)