JOS, Nigeria (AP) — Police anti-bomb squad officers on Wednesday dug into a crater left by one of two bombs that exploded in a bustling marketplace and bus station in a central Nigerian city as people searched for missing loved ones after the horrific attack that left at least 118 people dead.
Most victims are women and children vendors from the market, said Mohammed Abdulsalam of the National Emergency Management Agency.
Rescuers are waiting for earthmovers to demolish buildings weakened by the blast and move heavy debris so that they can safely search for more bodies, he said.
“We expect to find more bodies in the rubble,” Abdulsalam said.
Security forces cordoned off the area of mounds of rubble, burned-out vehicles and razed buildings with the debris of panic scattered around – a sandal here, a hat there.
Gloria Paul was among a handful of people at nearby Bingham University Teaching Hospital, searching for her husband. All she found was his car parked near Terminus Market, all the windows shattered.
The search for survivors was halted Tuesday night by fires ignited in buildings by the massive blasts that were heard miles (kilometers) away. Firefighters fought through the night to douse the blazes that collapsed buildings, Abdulsalam told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
At least 118 bodies were delivered to hospital morgues Tuesday, and 64 people were hospitalized, he said.
The city was tense with fears the attack being blamed on Islamic extremists could inflame religious rivalry. Jos sits on a volatile fault line dividing Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south and has been a flashpoint in the past for deadly conflict between adherents of the two religions. Boko Haram wants to impose an Islamic state under strict Shariah law in Nigeria, though half the country’s 170 million people are Christians.
President Goodluck Jonathan indicated that he blames the Boko Haram terrorist network for Tuesday’s attack, assuring Nigerians their government “remains fully committed to winning the war against terror.”
No group has claimed responsibility but Nigeria’s homegrown Boko Haram terrorist network has been waging a bombing campaign.
The 5-year-old Islamic uprising has grabbed international attention with the abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls who the extremists are threatening to sell into slavery.
On Monday a car bomb at a bus station killed 24 people in the Christian quarter of the northern Muslim city of Kano, where police later defused another massive car bomb. Two separate bomb blasts in April around another bus station, in the nation’s capital of Abuja, killed more than 120 people and wounded more than 200.
The attacks on Monday and Tuesday took place after regional and Western leaders pledged “total war” on the militant group at a weekend summit in Paris.
The U.S. Embassy in Abuja condemned Tuesday’s attack and said the United States is helping Ngieria to “grapple with violent extremism.”
It also urged calm in Jos. “We have seen reports that tensions are high in Jos, and we join the voices of those who are appealing for calm.”
The insurgency has become ever-deadlier, with more than 2,000 people killed this year compared to an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.
Faul reported from Lagos, Nigeria.