An explosion struck a city Sunday in central Nigeria that has seen hundreds killed in religious and ethnic violence in recent years, causing unknown injuries as diplomats had warned of possible terrorist attacks over the Easter holiday, police said.
The blast struck Kaduna, the capital of Kaduna state, as churchgoers prepared to celebrate the holiday. Kaduna state police spokesman Aminu Lawan confirmed the blast, but said authorities were yet to make it to the scene.
There was initial confusion over the location of the blast. A witness said the blast occurred near All Nation Christ Assembly Church in the city. Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman for Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency, told The Associated Press that the blast happened in a local market where many eat in the city.
"There are definitely injuries," Shuaib said.
It was not immediately clear if the explosion occurred from a bomb blast or an accident.
The blast happened as the United Kingdom and the United States had warned its citizens living in the oil-rich nation that violence was likely over the Easter holiday. Nigeria's weak central government is under increasing attack from a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram.
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north, is waging an increasingly bloody fight with security agencies and the public. More than 380 people have been killed in violence blamed on the sect this year alone, according to an AP count.
The sect, employing suicide bombers and assault-rifle shootouts, has attacked both Christians and Muslims, as well as the United Nations' headquarters in Nigeria.
The sect has rejected efforts to begin indirect peace talks with Nigeria's government. Its demands include the introduction of strict Shariah law across the country, even in Christian areas, and the release of all imprisoned followers.
Kaduna, on Nigeria's dividing line between its largely Christian south and Muslim north, was at the heart of postelection violence in April 2011. Mobs armed with machetes and poison-tipped arrows took over streets of Kaduna and the state's rural countryside after election officials declared President Goodluck Jonathan the winner. Followers of his main opponent, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, quickly alleged the vote had been rigged, though observers largely declared the vote fair.
Across the nation, at least 800 people died in that rioting, Human Rights Watch said. In the time since, heavily armed soldiers remain on guard on roadways throughout Kaduna. In December, an explosion at an auto parts market in Kaduna killed at least seven people. Though authorities said it came from a leaking gas cylinder, the Nigerian Red Cross later said in an internal report the blast came from a bomb.
In February, bombs exploded at two major military bases near the city, injuring an unknown number of people.