Stefanos Foundation / The Associated Press

Boko Haram burns villages, kills dozens in Nigeria

At least 48 people killed in attacks, one near town where hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped last month

Boko Haram attacked three villages in Nigeria and killed 48 people, residents said Wednesday, as rescue workers in the central city of Jos searched for the missing a day after two car bombs killed more than 100.

One of the villages that were attacked between Tuesday night and early Wednesday lies near the town of Chibok, where about 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped last month.

The reports came from residents and were confirmed by a state intelligence agent who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give information to reporters.

Apagu Maidaga of Alagarno village said residents hid in the forest and watched while Boko Haram — an armed group that wants to transform northeastern Nigeria into an Islamic state ruled by its version of Sharia law — burned the villagers’ thatch-roofed mud huts.

"We saw our village up in flames as we hid in the bush waiting for the dawn; we lost everything," he told The Associated Press.

In Jos, where 118 people were killed Tuesday in twin car bomb attacks on a bustling bus terminal and a market, rescue workers armed with body bags on Wednesday dug into the rubble of destroyed buildings.

Most victims were women and children vendors, said Mohammed Abdulsalam of the National Emergency Management Agency.

"We expect to find more bodies in the rubble," Abdulsalam said.

Mark Lipdo of the Stefanos Foundation, a Christian charity based in Jos, described the smell of burning human flesh to Reuters: "It's horrifying, terrible."

Jos is tense with fears the attack could inflame religious rivalry. The city in central Nigeria sits on a volatile fault line dividing the country'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. About half the country's 170 million inhabitants are Christian.

Officials in at least three other central and north-central states have suggested that Boko Haram is stoking local tribal and religious tensions in an attempt to spread the insurgency from its stronghold in the northeast into an area where thousands have been killed in recent years in disputes over land, water, religion and tribe.

President Goodluck Jonathan indicated that he blames Boko Haram for Tuesday's attack, assuring Nigerians their government "remains fully committed to winning the war against terror.”

Nigerian army spokesman Brig. Gen. Olajide Laleye also insisted Wednesday that victory was close, dismissing reports of troops suffering from low morale and lack of basic equipment including bulletproof vests.

But extremist attacks have increased in frequency and deadliness this year, with more than 2,000 people killed in the insurgency, compared with an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.

Wire services

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