JOS: Back-to-back bomb blasts killed at least 118 people and wounded 45 in the crowded business district of the central Nigerian city of Jos yesterday, emergency services said, in an attack that appeared to bear the hallmarks of the Boko Haram insurgents.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the militant group Boko Haram, which has set off bombs across the north and centre of Nigeria in an increasingly bloody campaign for an Islamic state, was likely to be the prime suspect.
The Jos attack was likely calculated to stoke civil strife in Nigeria’s most combustible ethnic and sectarian tinder box. Jos and the surrounding Plateau state have seen thousands killed in tit-for-tat violence between largely Christian Berom farmers and Muslim Fulani cattle herders over the past decade.
“We’ve now recovered 118 bodies from the rubble,” said Mohammed Abdulsalam, coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency in Jos. “This could rise by morning, as there is still some rubble we haven’t yet shifted.”
“The first explosive went off around 3 pm. The second was about 3.30 while people gathered to help the victims,” he said by telephone.
Jos has been relatively free of attacks by Boko Haram, but it claimed responsibility for a bomb in a church in the highland city, as well as two other places, on Christmas Day in 2011.
The city is in the heart of Nigeria’s volatile “Middle Belt”, where its largely Christian south and mostly Muslim north meet, and surrounding Plateau state is often a flashpoint for violence, although the Christmas bombing failed to trigger any.
But in a sign it could, a mob of Christian youths armed with clubs advanced toward a Muslim part of Jos before police held them back, police spokeswoman Felicia Anselm said by telephone.
President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the blasts, calling the perpetrators “cruel and evil.”
“The government remains fully committed to winning the war against terror,” he said in a statement. He announced heightened measures to tackle the insurgents, including a multinational force around Lake Chad, comprising a battalion each from Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria.