Multiple suicide attacks on churches in northern Nigeria's Kaduna state and subsequent rioting by Christian youths targeting Muslims killed at least 36 people today, officials said.

Police said 16 people died after blasts at three churches, while a Red Cross official in Kaduna city said aid workers "so far have recovered over 20 bodies" of people killed by rioters. 

Authorities arrested one of the bombers who survived, said Kaduna State police chief Mohammed Abubakar Jinjiri, but he declined to say who police suspect was responsible for the bombings.

It was the third Sunday in a row that deadly attacks have been carried out against Christian churches in northern Nigeria.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the latest one, but suspicion fell on the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram because it took responsibility for the two earlier weekend assaults.

Boko Haram is waging an increasingly bloody fight with security agencies and the public in Nigeria.

More than 560 people have been killed in violence blamed on the sect this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.

Today, the suicide bombers drove explosive-laden cars to the gates of two churches in different parts of the city of Zaria and detonated them within minutes of each other.

A similar attack targeted a church in the city of Kaduna about half an hour later at about 9.25am, police said, prompting reprisals by Christian youths.

The attacks in the northern state of Kaduna killed a total of 21 people and wounded at least 100, said an official who works with a relief agency involved in rescue efforts.