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11 dead after suicide attack on Nigerian church

A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Catholic church in central Nigeria on Sunday, killing seven people and sparking panic in which security forces shot three others dead.

People stand near smoke and flames after a suicide bomb attack on a Catholic church in the central Nigerian city of Jos that killed eleven people.

It was the second suicide attack on a church in the flashpoint central city of Jos in two weeks, after a February 26 attack claimed by Islamist sect Boko Haram killed three people and injured dozens.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned Sunday's bombing and reaffirmed his government's determination "to end the spate of mindless attacks and killings".

Jos, a faultline in Nigeria's Muslim-Christian divide between north and south, was tense in the aftermath of the bombing amid fears of a reprise of deadly riots which followed last month's attack.

"There are rumours of reprisals from Christian youths, but we hope the security agents are on top of the situation as they have cordoned off the area," said Alhassan Danjuma Aliyu of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Worshippers were filing out from Sunday mass in St. Finbar's Catholic church when the suicide bomber crashed his bomb-laden car into the gate, killing seven people and leaving a dozen others dazed and injured on the ground, Plateau State government spokesman Pam Ayuba said.

Three men were then shot as security forces fired on a crowd of onlookers who gathered after the blast.

"There were 10 dead -- seven parishioners and three that were shot dead by soldiers," in a bid to disperse the crowd, Ayuba told AFP.

People stand outside the St Finbarr's Parish Rayfield, a Catholic church in the central Nigerian city of Jos, after a suicide bomb that killed eleven people.

The bomber was also killed, "mutilated beyond recognition".

Boy scouts tried to stop the car, he said.

"The security guards, who were mainly members of the Boys Brigade, tried to prevent the car from entering the compound and in the process the car exploded."

Three people died at the scene, emergency agency spokesman Yushau Shuaib said. Several others were reported to be in a critical condition.

Emergency workers said the death toll could have been higher had the bomber managed to get the vehicle closer to his target. "The bomb exploded before he could get to the church," said Shuaib.

Peter Umoren, the parish priest at the church, told AFP seven of his parishioners were killed while 12 others were injured in the blast.

"We lost seven church members while 12 were injured and have been taken to the Plateau state specialist hospital and the airforce military hospital for treatment," he said.

Two residents pass by bombed corner shops attached to Bompai police barracks in the northern Nigerian city of Kano in January 2012. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Catholic church in central Nigeria on Sunday, killing seven people and sparking panic in which security forces shot three others dead.

He said there were a total of four suicide bombers, two in the car and two on a motorcycle escorting it, all of whom were killed. There was no immediate confirmation of his claim.

The blast blew out church windows and cracked the wall, an AFP reporter at the scene said, adding that the engine of the car was detached from its shattered body and flung into the church compound.

Jonathan called on the population "to remain patient and refrain from taking matters into their own hands through actions such as reprisal attacks, as government continues to take the battle to the merchants of terror and close in on their locations, funding and sponsors".

Rioting that followed the previous bombing killed a further three people, believed to be Muslims.

The worst recent attack on a Catholic church was on December 25, when 44 people were killed during a mass to celebrate Christmas in a town outside the capital Abuja.

Jos lies in the so-called middle belt region dividing the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, and hundreds of people have been killed in clashes between Muslim and Christian ethnic groups in recent years.

Violence blamed on Boko Haram, whose goals remain largely unclear, has since 2009 claimed more than 1,000 lives, including more than 300 this year, according to figures tallied by AFP and rights groups.