Gunmen exploded bombs and opened fire on worshippers gathered at the central mosque of northern Nigeria's biggest city, Kano, for Friday prayers, witnesses said, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of armed group Boko Haram.
The exact number of dead and injured in inthe blasts outside the Emir's Palace Mosque was not immediately clear. Police reported 35 people had been killed, according to the Associated Press. But an Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist on the scene said they had counted 92 dead from the incident at a nearby hospital morgue. Together with rescue worker and morgue counts, AFP reported that more than 120 had been killed and about 270 other were injured.
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 regional leader or “emir,” Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was said to be inside the mosque at the time. The explosions occurred in an outdoor courtyard.
There was also no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion is likely to fall on Boko Haram, which has waged a vicious insurgency against the government for over five years.
Boko Haram fighters have killed thousands in gun and bomb attacks on churches, schools, police stations, military and government buildings and even mosques that do not share their interpretation of Islamic liturgy. Hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes.
They regard the traditional Islamic authorities in Nigeria with distain, seeing them as a corrupt, self-serving elite that are too close to the secular government. Last week, Sanusi, a respected religious as well as political 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 was reported as saying on local newspaper the Daily Post.
"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 said.
Al Jazeera and wire services