Bomb blasts shake central Nigerian city
Two explosions in the main business district of the central Nigerian city of Jos on Tuesday have killed at least 46 people, according to police and a reporter on the scene.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blasts, although Islamist sect Boko Haram, which has set off bombs across the north and centre of Nigeria in an increasingly bloody insurgency, is likely to be a prime suspect.
Ten bodies burned beyond recognition were immediately strewn across the scene at Terminus – the downtown area of Jos housing shops, offices and a market – with several injured residents taken to hospital. But the death toll had risen since the blasts, with the police commissioner for Jos confirming 46 dead and another 45 injured later in the evening.
President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the blasts, calling the perpetrators “cruel and evil”.
“The government remains fully committed to winning the war against terror, and this administration will not be cowed by the atrocities of enemies of human progress and civilisation,” he said.
Boko Haram grabbed world headlines with the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls a month ago from a remote village in the northeast. Britain, the United States and France have pledged to help rescue them.
Jos has been relatively free of attacks by the group, 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.
Surrounding Plateau state is often a flashpoint for violence, although the Christmas bomb failed to trigger an outburst.
Tuesday’s blasts occurred 15 minutes apart in the afternoon, burning several shops to the ground, shattering windows and spewing rubble into the road. Police sirens wailed as officers rushed to the scene.
“There was a loud bang that shook my whole house. Then smoke was rising,” said Jos resident Veronica Samson. “There were bodies in the streets and people rushing injured to hospital in their cars.”
Boko Haram has stepped up its use of explosives in attacks that are spreading far beyond its core area of operation, including two in the capital city of Abuja last month. A suicide car bomber killed five people on a street of bars and restaurants in the northern Nigerian city of Kano on Sunday evening, in an area mostly inhabited by southern Christians.
World leaders gathered in Paris over the weekend to formulate a strategy for combating the Islamist group. – Reuters