OS, Nigeria (Reuters) - A suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a church in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday, killing two people and wounding 38, the emergency services said, and angry Christian youths reacted by beating two Muslims to death.
A Reuters reporter at the scene of the blast saw two bodies from the explosion, which police said included the suicide bomber, who had rammed his Volkswagen into the church before detonating explosives.
"NEMA (the National Emergency Management Agency) confirms three dead in suspected suicide car explosion in Jos today, including the bomber whose body was shredded to pieces," NEMA spokesman Yushua Shuaib said by text message.
"As of now 38 victims have been admitted to hospital for treatment. NEMA and the Red Cross have completed evacuation (of the church)."
Security forces cordoned off the area, while angry Christian youths set up a roadblock where they dragged two Muslim men off their motorbikes and beat them to death, police said.
The Reuters reporter saw the bodies of the two men on the roadside.
Ethnic and religious tensions run high in the city, which sometimes sees dozens killed in bouts of intercommunal violence.
"I heard a loud explosion near the church and I hit the ground. It shook buildings," said local resident Ishayaa Makut.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but Islamist militant group Boko Haram has targeted churches as part of its growing campaign of violence against the government.
Attacks on churches have raised fears the sect, styled on the Taliban whose name means "Western education is forbidden", is trying to ignite sectarian strife in Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer.
Another bomb exploded near a church in the Nigerian town of Suleja, on the edge of the capital Abuja, on Sunday, wounding five people.
Boko Haram, which wants sharia law more widely applied across the continent's most populous nation, has become increasingly sophisticated and deadly in its methods in the last six months. It has widened its targets beyond attacks on police and other authority figures to include Christians.
Its fighters rarely use suicide bombers. The first proven case of such a tactic was last August, when a Boko Haram militant drove a vehicle full of explosives into the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, killing 25 people.
A series of bombs struck churches in Nigeria on Christmas Day, including one which hit a Catholic Church in Madala, just outside Abuja, killing 37 people and wounding 57, and one in Jos. Boko Haram claimed the blasts.
The attacks have heightened sectarian tensions in the country of 160 million, split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims who mostly live side by side in peace.
Jos and other cities in the "Middle Belt" between Nigeria's largely Christian south and its mostly Muslim north have been prone to clashes.