DOHA, Qatar: At least 81 people have been killed and 150 others injured after two bombs exploded outside the central mosque of north Nigeria’s biggest city, Kano, just as residents were packing into the area for Friday prayers, local police said.
The blasts went off outside the Emir’s Palace Mosque. Witnesses said they heard gunshots but did not know who was firing.
“Two bombs exploded, one after the other, in the premises of the Grand Mosque seconds after the prayers had started,” resident Aminu Abdullahi said, adding that a third went off nearby.
The Agence France-Presse news agency put the death toll at 120.
Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh said the blasts took place in the center of Kano, the largest city in the country’s north.
“It was a very brazen attack in the centre of the city. The crowds at the mosque is usually the largest in the city during Friday prayers,” Rageh, reporting from Yola in the nearby Adamawa State, said.
The Emir, Lamido Sanusi, was said to be inside the mosque at the time, with the explosions happening in an outdoor courtyard.
There was also no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion is likely to fall on Boko Haram armed group, which has for five years waged a vicious insurgency against the government.
UN and US condemnation
The “horrendous” attack was condemned by the US who said it “stands with the Nigerian people in their struggle against violent extremism.”
Washington also pointed the finger at Boko Haram. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “These attacks, while as yet unclaimed, have all the hallmarks of Boko Haram and the group’s disregard for human life as it continues in its efforts to destabilise Nigeria.”
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and said “there can be no justification for attacks on civilians.”
Last week, Sanusi, a respected Muslim figure, called on the people of Nigeria to defend themselves against Boko Haram.
“These people [Boko Haram], when they attack towns, they kill boys and enslave girls. People must stand resolute,” he told the Daily Post website.
“People should be sensitized on the importance of being on the alert. And they should prepare, they should acquire what they will defend themselves with,” he was quoted as saying.