By Habiba Salihu and Kate Thomas
ABUJA, Nigeria — At least five people were killed in a bomb explosion at a mosque in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri after Friday prayers, police sources said.
Several more worshippers were wounded and the blast took place as people were leaving the mosque, police said.
“I heard a large blast as we were coming out of the mosque after the Friday prayers, followed by another blast within seconds, everywhere became dark from the smoke,” witness Inuwa Bello told the German news agency dpa.
He said at least two of the dead were children.
Maiduguri is the base of Boko Haram, the Islamist group that claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day attacks on churches in Nigeria in which 27 people died.
On Thursday, Boko Haram emailed a statement to some Nigerian media that said: “If God is willing we will carry out further attacks.”
Some Maiduguri residents believed Boko Haram was behind Friday’s bombing, while others feared it could be a reprisal attack by the Christian community following the Christmas Day attacks on churches in three cities.
New Year religious services and some festivals have been canceled in parts of Nigeria after the Christmas bombings. They include the Afan festival in the central city of Kaduna, the site of several Boko Haram attacks in recent weeks.
The festival is the largest ethnic celebration in the north of the country and usually takes place on the first day of the year.
The Rev. Issac Achi of the St Teresa Catholic Church in Madalla, the target of one of the Christmas morning bombings, told dpa that midnight Mass at the church was canceled amid security concerns.
“I am directing all parishes in this deaconry not to hold all-night Mass (as usual) on December 31st,” he said. “Everybody will observe the night with their families.”
He said the security measure was not an act “of cowardice but a reality of our time.”
(Reporting for this story was also done from Monrovia, Liberia.)