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Dec 22, 4:44 PM EST

Bombs blamed on extremists kill 26 in northeast Nigeria


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MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) -- Two explosions in two northeast Nigerian states on Monday killed at least 26 people and injured 79, rescue and health officials said.

A car bomb at a bus station in Gombe city killed at least 20 people and injured 60, according to Red Cross official Abubakar Yakubu. Those killed were "burned beyond recognition," he said.

In neighboring Bauchi state, west of Gombe, an explosion at a market killed at least 6 people and injured 19, said state commissioner of health Dr. Sani Malami.

The explosion came with heavy fireballs that engulfed the market and challenged firefighters, witnesses said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but witnesses said the attacks bear all the hallmarks of Nigeria's home-grown Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram.

The bomb in Gombe came when the station was crowded with holiday travelers, said Deputy Superintendent Fwaje Atajiri.

In a separate, earlier attack Sunday night, militants yelling "Allahu akbar," meaning "God is great," drove into the northeastern town of Geidan, in Yobe state, spraying gunfire from pickup trucks, according to fleeing residents.

Police Corporal Musa Isa said the insurgents destroyed all three cell phone towers in the town, leaving it without communications.

The attackers broke into the local prison and freed the inmates, said resident Umar Ibrahim. He said they also threw bombs that set fires and destroyed the police station, government headquarters and hundreds of vehicles at a station for long-distance drivers.

Boko Haram extremists want to impose an Islamic state in Nigeria, which is divided almost equally between Muslims, who dominate the north and Christians in the south.

Hundreds of Nigerians have been killed by car bombs and suicide bombers this year mainly in northeastern Nigeria, which is home to the Islamic uprising.

Some of the worst attacks include: twin car bombings in the central city of Jos which killed at least 118 people in May; a car bomb that killed about 100 people in April in Abuja, Nigeria's capital; a suicide bomber who killed 58 students at a school in Potiskum, in Yobe state; an attack by suicide bombers and gunmen on the main mosque in northern Kano, Nigeria's second city, that killed least 120 people.

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