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Church service attacked in Nigeria after Boko Haram threats

An attack on a Christian church service at a university in northern Nigeria Sunday left at least seven people dead. The Islamist group warned it would attack schools and other institutions.

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An early morning attack on a Christian church service in northern Nigeria left at least seven people dead according to an official, but eyewitnesses say the toll was much higher. The attack follows a string of violent incidents against Christians in the predominantly Muslim north.

Gunmen on motorcycles stormed Bayero University in the city of Kano Sunday morning during a Catholic mass held in the school's theater hall. The unidentified assailants threw improvised explosive devices as they traveled from the gates to the theater, and opened fire as people fled. 

University spokesperson Alhaji Mustapha Zahradeen said seven people were killed. Eyewitness, however, said rescue operators have removed at least 18 dead bodies.

Security officials suspect Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgent outfit, carried out the attack. The group, whose name means "Western education is a sin," issued a statement last month warning that they will attack schools. Boko Haram has been blamed for killing more than 1,000 people since 2009 in its bid to overthrow Nigeria's secular government and establish Islamic sharia law nationwide.

Nigeria's political system tries to strike a balance between the Muslim north and Christian south. The use of religiously-targeted violence by Boko Haram, a group based in the north, is posing a challenge to the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian. In response, Mr. Jonathan has dispatched security forces, but sent mixed signals on whether his government would talk with the insurgents. 

"Those who are saying we should dialogue are correct; those who are saying we should not dialogue are also correct," Jonathan told reporters Saturday after touring the bombed office of ThisDay Newspapers in Abuja.

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