(Detroit Free Press) MADALLA, Nigeria -- In the chaos after the Christmas terror attack on a Catholic church, a mortally wounded man cradled his wounded stomach and begged a priest for religious atonement. "Father, pray for me. I will not survive," he said.
At least 35 people died at St. Theresa Catholic Church, and dozens were wounded as radical Muslim militants launched coordinated attacks across Africa's most populous nation within hours of one another. Four more people were killed in other violence blamed on the group known as Boko Haram.
It was the second year in a row that the extremists seeking to install Islamic sharia law across the country of 160 million have staged Christmas attacks. Last year, a series of bombings on Christmas Eve killed 32 people in Nigeria.
On Monday, women tried to clean the sanctuary of the damaged church, while one man wept uncontrollably amid the debris. Crowds gathered among the burned-out cars in the dirt parking lot, angry over the attack and fearful that the group will target more churches.
The Rev. Christopher Jataudarde told the Associated Press that some parishioners already had left the church at the time of the bombing Sunday, causing the massive casualties.
At least 52 people were wounded in the attack, said Slaku Luguard, a coordinator with Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency. Victims filled the cement floors of a nearby government hospital, some crying in pools of their own blood.
Pope Benedict XVI denounced the bombing at his post-Christmas blessing Monday, urging people to pray for the victims and Nigeria's Christian community.
The United Nations Security Council condemned the attacks "in the strongest terms" and called for the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors "of these reprehensible acts" to be brought to justice.
The African Union also condemned the attacks and pledged to support Nigeria in its fight against terrorism.
"Boko Haram's continued acts of terror and cruelty and absolute disregard for human life cannot be justified by any religion or faith," said a statement attributed to AU commission chairman Jean Ping.
On Sunday, a bomb also exploded in the central Nigeria city of Jos and a suicide car bomber attacked the military in the nation's northeast. Three people died in those assaults.
After the bombings, a Boko Haram spokesman using the pseudonym Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in an interview with the Daily Trust, the newspaper of record across Nigeria's Muslim north. The sect has used the newspaper in the past to communicate with public.
"There will never be peace until our demands are met," the newspaper quoted the spokesman as saying. "We want all our brothers who have been incarcerated to be released; we want full implementation of the sharia system and we want democracy and the constitution to be suspended."