JOS, Nigeria – Two car bombs exploded at a bustling bus terminal and market in Nigeria’s central city of Jos on Tuesday, killing at least 118 people, wounding dozens and leaving bloodied bodies amid the flaming debris.
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 nearly 300 schoolgirls last month and has repeatedly targeted bus stations and other locations where large numbers of people gather in its campaign to impose Islamic law on Nigeria.
The second blast came half an hour after the first, killing some of the rescue workers who had rushed to the scene, which was obscured by billows of black smoke.
“It’s horrifying, terrible,” said Mark Lipdo of the Stefanos Foundation, a Christian charity based in Jos, who described the sickening smell of burning human flesh.
Dozens of bodies and body parts were covered in grain that had been loaded in the second car bomb, witnesses said. A Terminus Market official said he helped remove 50 casualties, most of them dead. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to give information to reporters.
At least 118 people were killed and dozens wounded in the bombings, which ignited fires that were still burning eight hours later, according to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency.
“Firemen are still trying to put them out. We believe we will find more bodies,” Mohammed Abdulsalam, zonal coordinator for the agency, told the Associated Press. He said the fires were being fueled by flammable goods at the market, including rubber sandals.
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, and there were fears the attacks could ignite a new round of sectarian violence.
President Goodluck Jonathan indicated he blamed Boko Haram for Tuesday’s bombings, extending sympathies to affected families in a statement and assuring “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 civilization,” the statement said.