At least 81 people have died in a series of explosions followed by gunfire outside the central mosque in Kano, Nigeria, just after Friday prayers began. The mosque was crowded with worshippers.
Witnesses say they have seen scores of people injured and feared dead after two bombs exploded in a courtyard outside Kano's Grand Mosque and a third detonated nearby.
Rioting erupted after the blasts. Police arrived on the scene to confront an angry mob of youths yelling and brandishing sticks and stones. The Reuters news agency reports police had to fire tear gas at the rioters to gain entrance to the mosque.
Police spokesman Mustafa Abubakar said "after the bomb blast, they started shooting people."
"And that was actually what happened," he continued. "People overpowered them and some facts will reveal itself later.”
Tensions were high in the moments after the blasts.
Angry survivors of Friday’s attack obstructed police officers as they arrived at the scene, Abubakar said “security agencies rushed there and they were resisted by the people that were present there, and they constituted themselves as a mob.”
A VOA reporter says the mood has eased since then, as medical authorities tend to the wounded.
A witnesses said he saw scores of people injured and feared dead after the blasts in a courtyard outside the building.
Abubakar couldn’t say how many gunmen or bombers were involved.
“No suspects so far, but some arrests have been made at the scene of crime," he said. "Many people have been screened right now to confirm whether they are suspects or not.”
The U.S. State Department called the attack "horrendous" and condemned it in the strongest terms. It said the United States stands with the Nigerian people in their struggle against violent extremism and the threat of terrorism and affirms its ongoing commitment to work with all Nigerians to combat these atrocities.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but suspicion is likely to fall on Boko Haram, which has carried out similar attacks.
The Islamist militant group has been waging a bloody campaign across northern Nigeria for the past five years. A Boko Haram bomb at a gas station in the city earlier this month killed six people -- three of them police officers.
Kano is a city of more than 3 million people in the northern part of Nigeria. Its central mosque is associated with one of the country's most influential Muslim authorities, the Emir of Kano, who recently called for Nigerians to take up arms against the militant group Boko Haram.
There are conflicting reports on whether the emir was at the mosque at the time of the bombing.
Meanwhile, authorities in Borno state found and defused at least one explosive device planted near a marketplace in Maiduguri, scene of a double suicide bombing on Tuesday that killed dozens of people.
Some information in this report was provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.