ABUJA - A wave of attacks on churches in Nigeria's northern Kaduna state on Sunday, July 17, prompted angry Christian youth to drag Muslims out of their cars and kill them in retaliation.
"There were bodies everywhere on the ground," witness Haruna Isah, told Reuters.
He estimated that up to 20 people may have been killed in reprisal attacks by furious Christian youths.
The reprisals followed the death of at least 15 people in a wave of attacks on churches in Kaduna state.
Two explosions rocked churches in the town of Zaria within minutes of each other.
First, a suicide bomber drove a blue Honda civic into a church, burning the front entrance and damaging the building, the church's pastor told a Reuters cameraman at the scene.
"Three people are confirmed killed. Others have been taken to hospital for treatment," Reverend Nathan Waziri said.
Militants also threw bombs at another church, killing four children who were playing on the streets outside, said resident Deborah Osagie, who lives opposite the church.
She added that the militants were later caught by a mob and killed.
A blast hit a third church in the state's main city of Kaduna, causing an unknown number of casualties, witnesses and the National Emergency Management Agency said.
The attacks sent angry Christians into the streets, blocking the highway leading south out of Kaduna to the capital Abuja, dragging Muslims out of their cars and killing them.
"I cancelled my trip to Abuja because of the huge number of rioters that have taken over the roads," a man told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Many residents caved in their houses fearing being caught in the violence.
"We had to return home when we saw them (the Christian youths) attacking, Kaduna resident Rafael Gwaza told Reuters.
I saw many bodies on the ground but I don't know how many were dead or just injured.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for Sunday's attacks, but militant sect Boko Haram has often attacked church services in Nigeria.
Boko Haram, a Hausa term meaning "Western education is sinful", is loosely modeled on Afghanistan's Taliban.
The group originally said it wanted Shari`ah to be applied more widely across Nigeria but its aims appear to have changed.
It says it is fighting enemies who have wronged its members through violence, arrests or economic neglect and corruption.
The group's leader Abubakar Shekau has justified attacks on Christians as revenge for killings of Muslims in Nigeria's volatile "Middle Belt", where the largely Christian south and mostly Muslim north meet.
Kaduna is close to the Middle Belt areas.
Nigeria, one of the world's most religiously committed nations, is divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south.
Muslims and Christians, who constitute 55 and 40 percent of Nigeria's 140 million population respectively, have lived in peace for the most part.But ethnic and religious tensions have bubbled for years, fuelled by decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands with migrants and settlers from the Hausa-speaking Muslim north.