At least 24 worshippers were killed during dawn prayers Wednesday when two female suicide bombers attacked a mosque on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the birthplace of the Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria, according to media reports.
“The first attack targeted a mosque, while the second blast was about 50 meters away, a few minutes later,” said military spokesman Colonel Sani Usman, according to Reuters.
The initial death toll of 22 climbed after rescuers digging through rubble in the village of Umurari found more injured people and bodies, including the bombers, according to emergency official Mohammed Chullu, the Associated Press reports.
Alhaji Danbatta, an official of the Civilian-JTF who coordinated the evacuation of victims, said at least 26 people were injured, News24 Nigeria reports.
Umar Usman said he escaped because he was late. “We were just a few meters away from the mosque when a loud bang erupted and all we could see was dark smoke and bodies littered around,” he told AP.
Umurari, in Borno state, is about four miles outside the city of Maiduguri, the command center of the Nigerian military’s war against Boko Haram.
The city is also the birthplace of the extremist group, which was established in 2002 by a charismatic Muslim cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, the BBC reports. Boko Haram launched military operations in 2009 in an attempt to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria.
In recent months, several suicide bombing attacks have occurred at roadblocks leading into the city, which is manned by the military and vigilantes, indicating some success in preventing attackers from reaching crowded areas.
Wednesday’s attack was the first around the city since Dec. 28, when Boko Haram militants killed at least 50 people in an attack fueled by rocket-propelled grenades and multiple suicide bombers.
President Muhammadu Buhari said Wednesday’s attack “is yet another sign that Boko Haram is a mindless and godless group that in no way represents true Islam,” The Nigerian newspaper The Nation reports.