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Suicide car bombing kills 38 in Nigeria on Easter Sunday

Authorities believe the attacker was trying to detonate explosives near churches holding Easter services on Sunday.

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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.

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The near-daily attacks by the sect — and Nigeria's weak central government's inability to thwart them despite public promises — has sparked anger and fear about the group's reach. The United Kingdom and the United States had warned its citizens living in the country that violence was likely over the Easter holiday. Nigeria's government dismissed the warning, with local newspapers quoting presidential spokesman Reuben Abati saying: "Easter will be peaceful for all."

Abati did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday. In his Easter speech at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned the ongoing violence in Nigeria. Catholic churches have been targeted in previous attacks.

"To Nigeria, which in recent times has experienced savage terrorist attacks, may the joy of Easter grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of its citizens," he said.

Britain's Africa Minister Henry Bellingham condemned the attack, calling it a "horrific act."

Meanwhile, authorities said an explosion struck the city of Jos in neighboring Plateau state on Sunday night, another city where religious and ethnic violence has killed hundreds in past years. Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, said there were some injuries in the blast, but had no other details. State police commissioner Emmanuel Dipo Ayeni said the cause of blast was still being investigated.

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.

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