Christmas greetings from the ROP.

(BBC) — Bomb blasts targeting Christmas Day church services in two Nigerian cities have left at least 28 people dead, with three more attacks on other towns.

The Islamist group Boko Haram said it had attacked St Theresa’s Church in Madalla, near the capital Abuja, killing 27 people.

A second explosion shortly after hit a church in the central city of Jos. A policeman died during gunfire.

Three attacks in northern Yobe state targeted a church and security forces.

Two hit the town of Damaturu, and a third struck Gadaka. Yobe state has been the epicentre of violence between security forces and Boko Haram militants.

National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) spokesman Yushau Shuaibu told the BBC that the latest Abuja explosion had happened in the street outside the church.

He said the church — which can hold up to 1,000 people — had been badly affected by the blast, and the number of dead was likely to rise.

Unconfirmed reports say that emergency responders have been attacked by groups of stone-throwing youths.

A security source told Agence France-Presse that one of the Damaturu explosions was a suicide car bomb attack on a convoy of the State Security Service.

In Jos, a blast close to the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church was followed by gunfire that left one officer dead, government spokesman Pam Ayuba told Associated Press.

Two explosive devices found in a nearby building were disarmed as military were deployed to the site.

BBC Africa editor Martin Plaut says the attack in Jos, in Plateau state, could have even more serious consequences than the attack in Abuja.

The state lies in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt, between the mainly Muslim north and Christian south.

A string of bomb blasts in Jos on Christmas Eve 2010 were claimed by Boko Haram.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi condemned the latest attacks as blind, absurd “terrorist violence” that enflames hate.

“We are close to the suffering of the Nigerian Church and the entire Nigerian people so tried by terrorist violence, even in these days that should be of joy and peace,” Lombardi was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.