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Church Bombing Kills 15 in Nigeria

People gather around a car used by a suicide bomber following an explosion in church compound in Bauchi, Nigeria, June 3, 2012.
ABUJA - Nigerian officials say the bombing of a church in Bauchi State has killed 15 people and wounded 42.

The chairman of the state emergency operations team, Muhammad Inuwa Bello, says a suicide bomber attacked the Living Faith Church outside the state capital Sunday morning, but the agency cannot yet comment on who it thinks was responsible.

Witnesses say the church collapsed after the blast, trapping worshipers, killing civilians and security personnel, and leaving others with gruesome injuries.

Angry local residents say the government is failing to protect the people from attacks and sectarian violence that have ripped through northern Nigeria in the past three years.

In some towns in northern Nigeria, local demographics now resemble the national population, with mostly Muslims in the north and predominately Christians in the south. After Sunday's bombing, some infuriated residents illustrated increasing sectarian tensions by saying that if the killings do not stop, Christians and Muslims should no longer live together.

"We are not happy about it. We are not happy. If the government cannot find a solution, let the country tear into two," said a witness.

The Islamist militant group known as Boko Haram has in the past claimed responsibility for similar attacks, like coordinated church bombings that killed dozens of people last year on Christmas Day.

Boko Haram has been blamed for hundreds of deaths this year, mostly in the north. The group says it wants to enforce Islamic law, and demands the release of imprisoned members.

Hussaini Abdu heads anti-poverty organization ActionAid in Nigeria. He says Boko Haram attacks are increasing existing tensions between religious and ethnic groups in Nigeria, making it harder for the nation to agree on what to do to stop the violence.

"Boko Haram situation is fitting more perfectly into the national fissures, the national divisions. It is fitting into it. So the commentary, the examination of the issue, your response to the issue is based on your ethnicity. Where you come from," said Abdu.

Human Rights Watch says the group has killed more than 1,000 people since it began violent operations in 2009, attacking security forces, churches, markets, newspaper offices and the local U.N. headquarters in the Nigerian capital.