Boko Haram linked to twin Nigeria blasts that leave more than 100 dead
The bombs exploded in Jos, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.
"We've now recovered 118 bodies from the rubble," said Mohammed Abdulsalam, co-ordinator of the agency in Jos. "This could rise by morning, as there is still some rubble we haven't yet shifted."
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the twin car bombs, but they bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group that abducted almost 300 schoolgirls last month.
The second blast came half an hour after the first, killing some of the rescue workers who had rushed to the scene.
Dozens of bodies and body parts were covered in grain that had been loaded in the second car bomb, witnesses said yesterday. A Terminus Market official said he helped remove 50 casualties, most of them dead.
"It's horrifying, terrible," said Mark Lipdo of the Stefanos Foundation, a Christian charity based in Jos, who could smell burning human flesh.
Photographs showed a woman's body, her legs blown off and her hand reaching out of the flames, on the edge of an inferno consuming other bodies . Tensions have been rising between Christians and Muslims in Jos, the capital of Plateau state in Nigeria's Middle Belt region that divides the country into the predominantly Muslim north and Christian south. It is a flashpoint for religious violence.
Boko Haram has claimed other recent bomb attacks, including two separate bomb blasts in April that killed more than 120 people and wounded more than 200 in Abuja, the nation's capital. A suicide car bomber killed 25 people in northern Kano city on Monday.
Police there detonated a second car bomb on the same day. They said both would have killed many people but the first exploded before it reached its target of restaurants and bars in the Christian quarter of the Muslim city.
Mr Lipdo said at least one of yesterday's blasts could have been averted if authorities had acted in time. He said a white van that held the first bomb was parked for hours in the market place, raising suspicions of vendors who reported it to the authorities, but nothing was done.
He added that authorities also had another warning of impending violence – a man with explosives strapped to his body was arrested on Saturday and told police that many militants had been ordered to plant bombs around churches and public areas in Jos.
President Goodluck Jonathan extended sympathies to affected families and said in a statement that he "assures all Nigerians that the government remains fully committed to winning the war against terror".
"This administration will not be cowed by the atrocities of enemies of human progress and civilisation," the statement said.
The Nigerian government and military's failure to curtail the five-year-old Islamic uprising, highlighted by the mass abduction of at least 276 schoolgirls and lack of progress in rescuing them more than a month later, has caused national and international outrage.