Jos (Nigeria) (AFP) – At least 44 people were killed in twin bomb blasts in the central Nigerian city of Jos, the emergency services said on Monday, after a wave of mass casualty attacks blamed on Boko Haram militants.
Sunday’s bombings took the death toll from raids, explosions and suicide attacks to 267 this month alone and to 524 since Muhammadu Buhari became president on May 29, according to an AFP count.
The former army general has repeatedly vowed to crush the Islamists and is eyeing the deployment of a strengthened regional force at the end of this month to deliver a hammer blow.
But with the death toll rising, attacks increasing and the military seemingly unable to prevent attacks on civilians, he will be under pressure to act fast.
On Monday evening, a young girl thought to be aged just 13 blew herself up near a major mosque in the northern city of Kano as worshippers gathered for prayers but caused no deaths or injuries.
– Mosque hit –
Sunday’s deadly blasts happened within minutes of each other at a shopping complex and near a mosque in the religiously divided capital of Plateau state, which the rebels have targeted before.
“At the moment we have 44 dead bodies and 47 others injured from the scenes of the two attacks,” Mohammed Abdulsalam, from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) told AFP.
Umar Abubakar, who was at the Yantaya mosque for the “Tafsir” or Koran commentary session, said a number of attackers opened fire from outside at about 9:20 pm (2020 GMT).
“They fire an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) at the mosque but it hit a metal bar on the facade and exploded,” he said. “Many people were killed and injured from the shooting and the explosion.
“It was a miracle I escaped because I can’t explain how it happened.”
Daybreak showed the mosque pockmarked with bullet holes and stained with blood, while footwear, books and other personal items were strewn on the ground.
– Restaurant attacked –
The second attack targeted the packed Shagalinku restaurant in a shopping complex on the Bauchi Road, which is popular with travellers from the northeast.
Local resident Mohammed Shafi’i, who is a regular at the restaurant, said the whole neighbourhood shook from the blast and he counted 25 bodies, including four waitresses.
“The restaurant was badly damaged. Bits of human flesh, blood stains, plastic tables and chairs and all sorts of personal items litter the place,” he said.
The carnage in Jos followed a suicide attack on a church in the northeastern city of Potiskum on Sunday, which left five people dead, including the pastor, a woman and her two children.
Last week, Islamist militants fighters raided a number of villages around the Lake Chad area, killing more than 150 worshippers as they prayed in mosques.
Buhari said on Sunday that Boko Haram, which has allied itself to the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, had “declared war on all that we value”.
He promised to do “everything possible to eradicate Boko Haram, terrorism and mindless extremism from Nigeria in the shortest possible time”.
– Guerrilla tactics –
Boko Haram’s resumption of guerrilla-style tactics against “soft” civilian targets follows its capture of territory across the northeast last year.
The insurgents have been pushed out of towns and villages since the turn of the year but the attacks demonstrate the group is not a spent force.
Security analysts have suggested a decline in the intensity of operations by the existing multilateral force of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon has allowed the rebels to regroup and rearm.
They also said the increase in attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan has coincided with Buhari distracted by other pressing issues such as tackling the faltering economy.