A radical Islamist sect on Monday claimed responsibility for Sunday's suicide attacks on two churches in the city of Zaria and another in the city of Kaduna that left 21 people dead, according to an initial count. But the Nigerian Red Cross said late on Sunday that the death toll has jumped to 50, including reprisal killings.
The violence highlights festering religious tensions in Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people. The attacks occurred in the religious flashpoint state of Kaduna that sits on the border between the country's predominantly Muslim north and its mainly Christian south. A history of attacks and counterattacks between the two communities means that authorities are often cautious about releasing death figures.
A statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry late on Tuesday reiterated Turkey's earlier statements in which it expressed concern over the escalating violence in the past six months in Nigeria. The statement said Turkey fears that the violence could transform into a religion-based conflict.
The Islamist Boko Haram sect is waging an increasingly bloody fight with Nigeria's security agencies and public. More than 580 people have been killed in violence believed to be the work of the sect this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.
Churches have increasingly become the target of violent attacks in Nigeria. This is the third weekend in a row that Boko Haram claims responsibility for church attacks in central and northern Nigeria. Statements attributed to the group said they were responsible for church attacks on the first and second Sunday of June that killed at least 21 people.
Turkey also expressed “deep concern” about retaliatory attacks on Muslim communities because of the bombings and called on religious communities in Nigeria to restore peace. Turkey expressed its condolences to the people of Nigeria and that it will continue to stand by the Nigerian state and people in its fight against any kind of extremism.
Boko Haram has perpetrated multiple attacks in northeastern Nigeria in retaliation, killing at least 25 people on Tuesday.