JOS, (Reuters) – 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 in what would rank among their deadliest single attacks in five years of insurrection.
Boko Haram grabbed world headlines by abducting more than 200 schoolgirls on April 14 from the northeastern village of Chibok. Britain, the United States and France have pledged to help rescue them.
If the Jos attack was the handiwork of Boko Haram, it would show their growing reach in Africa’s top oil producing and most populous country, striking out beyond their heartland in Nigeria’s semi-arid and weakly governed northeast. Several bombs have exploded outside that region over the past month.
It was also 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.
A Reuters reporter saw 10 bodies burned beyond recognition at the bomb site opposite a hospital at Terminus, the downtown area of Jos which houses shops, some offices and a market.
“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.”
Plateau state Police Commissioner Chris Olakpe earlier confirmed a death toll of 46, adding that other wounded had been taken to hospital.