The attacks in northern Kaduna state that led to reprisal violence which saw Christian youths target Muslims with machetes and clubs were the latest in a wave of Sunday church bombings in Africa’s most populous nation.
Boko Haram group has claimed responsibility for the bombings.
Suicide bombers attacked two churches in the city of Zaria and one in the city of Kaduna, killing at least 16 people, police spokesman Frank Mba said in a statement.
After news of the blasts spread, Christian youths took to the main motorway that leads to the capital Abuja, attacking motorists who looked Muslim.
Christian mobs carrying machetes and clubs also prowled the streets of Kaduna city on Sunday, the Red Cross said.
“Many of them need surgery, but a shortage of blood is stalling treatment,” a Red Cross official in Kaduna said of the wounded on Monday. “We’re still going about looking for more bodies in these neighbourhoods.”
Officials put the state — which last year saw rioting that left more than 600 people dead in the wake of presidential elections — under curfew for 24 hours.
The first blast struck ECWA Goodnews Church in the Wusasa area of Zaria city early Sunday. The second explosion went off 10 minutes later at the Christ the King Catholic church in Zaria’s Sabongari area, a police statement said.
The third blast hit the Shalom Church in Kaduna city moments later.
A worshipper said he saw a bomber drive an explosives-packed car into the church building.
“Right away the car exploded and killed a soldier and two private security guards guarding the church,” Joseph Emmanuel told AFP.
The violent response by Christian youth mobs that followed the attacks was termed “a momentary breakdown of law and order,” in the police statement.
The police chief urged “criminal elements who have been carrying out campaigns of violence on innocent Nigerians and institutions to desist forthwith,” in the statement issued from Abuja.
He also said a massive deployment of forces had been ordered across “every nook and cranny of the state.”
One Kaduna resident said it was not safe to travel on Sunday.
“I cancelled my trip to Abuja because of the huge number of rioters that have taken over the roads,” the man told AFP.