The Emir of Kano, Muhammed Sanusi II, on Saturday said Nigeria’s Muslims will not be intimidated into abandoning Islam following coordinated attacks on the city’s central mosque that claimed at least 120 lives.
“We will never be intimidated into abandoning our religion, which is the intention of the attackers,” the emir said during a 20-minute visit to the mosque shortly after his return to the country.
The mosque, built in the 1490s along with an adjoining palace, was remodeled in the 1940s.
Sanusi was out of Nigeria on Friday when the deadly assault on the mosque occurred.
Last week, the emir — the country’s second most senior Muslim cleric — made a call at the same mosque urging civilians to take up arms against the extremist group Boko Haram. During his visit, he implicitly dismissed widespread speculation that the attack was in retaliation for that call.
“From all indications, they [the attackers] have been planning this for at least two months,” Sanusi said in Hausa, the dominant language of northern Nigeria.
The powerful Islamic cleric is regarded as the custodian of the religion and tradition of Muslims in Kano.
He is seen as a spiritual leader whose authority and pronouncements on religious matters must be adhered to strictly.
Pieces of flesh, blood splatters, broken floor tiles, abandoned footwear and prayer mats littered the mosque when the emir visited the site.
Bloodstains were also noticeable at the entrance and on the walls of the sprawling sanctuary. The bomb blasts had left gaping holes in the ceiling.
“I have directed that the mosque be washed and cleaned and prayers should continue here,” Sanusi said.
He did comment on the people killed in the attack.
The emir later returned and led the 6pm prayers at the mosque, his aides said.
Earlier, hundreds of residents and faithful thronged the outside of the mosque, gaping at the carcasses of dozens of burned motorcycles and cars scattered around the area.
A senior rescue official late on Friday gave a preliminary death toll of 120.
The official also said that at least 270 people were wounded in the attack, which saw two suicide bombers blow themselves up and gunmen opening fire during weekly prayers in Kano, the biggest city in the mainly Muslim north of the country.
Kano State acting police chief Sanusi Lemu told journalists that the enraged mob killed three of the attackers instantly.
He did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to hunt down those behind the “heinous” attacks.
Jonathan “directed the security agencies to launch a full-scale investigation and to leave no stone unturned until all agents of terror ... are tracked down and brought to justice,” a statement from his office said on Saturday.
Jonathan urged Nigerians “not to despair in this moment of great trial in our nation’s history, but to remain united to confront the common enemy.”
The attack was widely seen inside Nigeria as revenge for the emir’s call against Boko Haram.
“It was death and blood all over. People lay dead and others shrieked in horror and pain,” one survivor, Muhammad Inuwa Balarabe, told reporters from his hospital bed.
“I was inside the premises of the mosque. As soon as the prayer started, a bomb went off. They just started shooting people,” said the 32-year-old tailor, who received serious burns to his thighs.
“One wonders what kind of religion these people practice,” said survivor Maikudi Musa, who lost a sibling in the blast and saw another badly hurt. “You can’t justify attacking and killing defenseless people at will in the name of religion.”
Just hours before the Kano massacre, a suspected remote-controlled roadside bomb near another mosque nearly 600km away in Maiduguri, was defused.
Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was founded in 2002, was already tense after two female suicide bombers wreaked havoc at a crowded market on Tuesday, killing more than 45 shoppers and traders.
More than 13,000 people are thought to have died in total since the insurgency broke out in 2009.
After the latest attacks, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the special representative of the UN secretary-general for west Africa, called on Nigerian authorities “to increase their response against terrorist threats in northeastern Nigeria,” and for additional measures to protect civilians.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bloodshed at the mosque, saying in a statement that “there can be no justification for attacks on civilians.”
French President Francois Hollande called for a united front against Boko Haram “barbarism.”
“We must unite against barbarism, against the risks posed by fundamentalism, notably in the Sahel, in Africa,” Hollande said while on an official visit to Senegal.
A Nigerian security expert, Ona Ekhomu, said during a TV debate that the latest attacks showed that “we are at war in Nigeria.”
In the same program, Nigerian national police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu said: “We try to prevent crimes from happening ... but criminals sometimes beat the security.”
With northern Nigeria gripped by fear, neighboring Cameroon, Niger and Chad are also concerned that the violence could spread across their borders.
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