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Thursday 22 March 2018

Dozens killed by Nigeria bombings

Nigeria has been rocked by two further blasts a day after a bombing at the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Potiskum (AP)
Nigeria has been rocked by two further blasts a day after a bombing at the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Potiskum (AP)

A day of extremist violence against Muslims and Christians in Nigeria has killed more than 60 people, including worshippers in a mosque who came to hear a cleric known for preaching peaceful co-existence of all faiths.

Militants from Boko Haram were blamed for suicide bombings last night at a crowded mosque and an upmarket Muslim restaurant in the central city of Jos, a suicide bombing at an evangelical Christian church in the north-eastern city of Potiskum, and attacks in several north-eastern villages where dozens of churches and about 300 homes were torched.

President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attacks on places of worship and said the government will defend Nigerians' right to worship freely.

It was the latest spasm of violence by Boko Haram extremists who have killed about 300 people in the past week - apparently after an order by the Islamic State group for more mayhem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Earlier this year, Boko Haram became an affiliate of IS.

The deadliest attack came on Wednesday when more than 140 people were killed - mostly men and boys mowed down by gunfire as they prayed in mosques in the north-eastern town of Kukawa.

Burials were held today for 51 people killed by the two bombings yesterday in Jos, said Muslim community lawyer Ahmed Garba.

Another 67 people were wounded, according to Abdussalam Mohammed, the National Emergency Management Agency co-ordinator.

The explosion at the Yantaya Mosque came as cleric Sani Yahaya was addressing the worshippers, survivors said. He is the national chairman of the Jama'atu Izalatul Bidia organisation, which preaches that all religions should peacefully co-exist.

Garba said gunmen also opened fire on the mosque from three directions.

Survivor Danladi Sani said he saw a man dressed in white take aim at Mr Yahaya, and then blow himself up. Mr Yahaya was unharmed, Mr Sani added.

"He is a great Islamic scholar who has spoken out against Boko Haram, and that is why we believe he was the target," Mr Sani said.

Another bomb exploded at Shagalinku, a restaurant often patronised by state governors and other senior politicians for its specialties popular with Muslims, witnesses said.

Sabi'u Bako was picking up a takeout meal when he heard a massive explosion as he walked away with friends.

"The restaurant was destroyed, and we saw many people covered in blood," he said. "We can't believe that we escaped."

Jos is a hotspot for violent religious confrontations because it is in the centre of the country where Nigeria's majority Muslim north meets the mainly Christian south. The city has been targeted by bombs claimed by Boko Haram extremists that have killed hundreds.

Earlier yesterday, a female suicide bomber struck a crowded service of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Potiskum, killing six people, witnesses said.

Elsewhere in the north east, extremists killed nine people and burned down 32 churches and about 300 homes in several villages, said Stephen Apagu, chairman of a self-defence group in Borno state's Askira-Uba local government area. He said the militia killed three militants.

The villages had been attacked three days earlier and 29 people killed.

Press Association

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