Bomb attacks targeting security forces and gun battles killed at least 162 people in Nigeria’s second-largest city of Kano, where bodies littered the streets on Saturday, sources said.
A curfew was imposed on Kano in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north after it exploded in violence on Friday evening, with eight police and immigration offices or residences targeted.
The main newspaper in the north said a purported spokesman for Islamist group Boko Haram had claimed responsibility for the violence, saying it was in response to authorities’ refusal to release its members from custody.
The sect has killed hundreds in the north of Africa’s most populous nation in the last year.
The attacks late on Friday prompted the government to announce a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the city of more than 10 million people, the country’s second biggest.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who has been criticized for failing to act quickly and decisively enough against Boko Haram, said the killers would face “the full wrath of the law.”
Scores of such attacks in Nigeria’s north have been blamed on Boko Haram, though Friday’s would be among the group’s most audacious and well-coordinated assaults.
Some 20 huge blasts could be heard in the city as a suicide bomber struck a regional police office and a car bomb rocked state police headquarters after the attacker fled and was shot dead, police sources said.
A number of other police posts were targeted, including a secret police building, as well as immigration offices.
Gunfire shook a number of areas, and a local television journalist was among those shot dead as he covered the unrest.
“We have been receiving dead bodies since last night from relief agencies involved in the evacuation of bodies,” an official at the city’s main morgue said on condition of anonymity.
“At this moment we have 162 bodies in the morgue, and this figure may change because bodies are still being brought,” he added.
A source with the Red Cross said his agency alone had counted 121 dead.
The attacks in Kano, which had escaped the worst of the violence blamed on Boko Haram in recent months, sent residents fleeing in fear of what would come next.
Britain, Germany and France all denounced the attacks on Saturday.
“The nature of these attacks has sickened people around the world,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
The Nigerian president declared a state of emergency on December 31 in parts of four states hard hit by attacks attributed to Boko Haram, but Kano was not included.
Most of the recent major attacks have taken place in the country’s northeast.
The state of emergency has not stopped attacks, and the areas targeted have spread beyond the locations covered by the decree.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
The limitations of the authorities were recently highlighted when the alleged mastermind of a Christmas Day attack outside a church that killed 44 people escaped police custody in suspicious circumstances.
Attacks specifically targeting Christians have also given rise to fears of a wider religious conflict in the country, with Christian leaders warning they would defend themselves. Some have even evoked the possibility of civil war.
However, attacks blamed on Boko Haram have included a wide range of targets, including Muslims.
The group also claimed responsibility for the August suicide bombing of United Nations headquarters in the capital Abuja that killed 25 people.