JOS, Nigeria: Two bombs blamed on the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram exploded at a crowded mosque and an elite Muslim restaurant in Nigeria’s central city of Jos, killing 44 people, officials said Monday.
Sixty-seven other people were wounded in the attacks Sunday night and were being treated at hospitals, said National Emergency Management Agency coordinator Abdussalam Mohammed.
The explosion at the Yantaya Mosque came as leading cleric Sani Yahaya of the Jama’atu Izalatul Bidia organization, which preaches peaceful co-existence of all religions, was addressing a crowd during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to survivors who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Another bomb exploded at Shagalinku, a restaurant patronized by state governors and other elite politicians seeking specialties from Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north.
Jos is a hotspot for violent religious confrontations, located in the center of the country where Nigeria’s majority Muslim north and mainly Christian south collide. The city has been targeted in the past by bomb blasts claimed by Boko Haram extremists that have killed hundreds of people.
Sunday’s attacks are the latest in a string blamed on Boko Haram that have killed more than 200 people over the past week in northeast Nigeria.
The extremists returned Sunday to northeastern villages attacked three days earlier, killing nine villagers and burning down 32 churches and about 300 homes, said Stephen Apagu, chairman of a vigilante self-defense group in Borno state’s Askira-Uba local government area.
He said the vigilantes killed three militants.
Boko Haram took over a large swath of northeastern Nigeria last year and stepped up cross-border raids. A multinational army from Nigeria and its neighbors forced the militants out of towns, but bombings and village attacks increased in recent weeks, apparently in response to an Islamic State group order for more mayhem during Ramadan. Boko Haram became the Islamic State group’s West Africa franchise earlier this year.