JOS, Nigeria — Two bombs blamed on the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram exploded at a crowded mosque and an elite Muslim restaurant in Nigeria's central city of Jos, killing 44 people, officials said Monday.
The blasts on Sunday night came hours after a woman suicide bomber blew up at a crowded evangelical Christian church service in the northeastern city of Potiskum, killing at least five people, according to witnesses.
Also Sunday, extremists returned to northeastern villages attacked three days earlier, killing nine villagers and burning down 32 churches and about 300 homes, said Stephen Apagu, chairman of a self-defense group in Borno state's Askira-Uba local government area. He said the militia killed three militants.
Sunday's attacks are the latest in a string blamed on Boko Haram that have now killed more than 250 people over a week. They may correspond to an Islamic State group order for more mayhem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Boko Haram became the Islamic State group's West Africa franchise earlier this year.
In Jos, 44 people died and 67 were wounded, said National Emergency Management Agency coordinator Abdussalam Mohammed. Police confirmed the explosions but said a final toll must wait as they are still excavating rubble.
The explosion at the Yantaya Mosque came as leading cleric Sani Yahaya of the Jama'atu Izalatul Bidia organization, which preaches peaceful co-existence of all religions, was addressing a crowd, according to survivors.
Danladi Sani said a man robed in white opened fire, apparently targeting Yahaya, and then blew himself up. Yahaya was unharmed, he said.
"He is a great Islamic scholar who has spoken out against Boko Haram, and that is why we believe he was the target," Sani told The Associated Press.
Another bomb exploded at Shagalinku, a restaurant patronized by state governors and other elite politicians seeking specialties from Nigeria's mainly Muslim north, witnesses said.
Sabi'u Bako bought a take-out and then heard a massive blast as he walked away with friends. "The restaurant was destroyed and we saw many people covered in blood," he said. "We can't believe that we escaped."
Jos is a hotspot for violent religious confrontations, located in the center of the country where Nigeria's majority Muslim north and mainly Christian south collide. The city has been targeted in the past by bomb blasts claimed by Boko Haram extremists that have killed hundreds of people.
Boko Haram took over a large swath of northeastern Nigeria last year and stepped up cross-border raids. A multinational army from Nigeria and its neighbors forced the militants out of towns, but bombings and village attacks increased in recent weeks.
Associated Press writer Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, Nigeria, contributed to this report.