MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – At least 70 people were killed between Sunday and Monday in suicide attacks by the jihadist Boko Haram group, which targeted two cities in northern Nigeria.
The terrorists attacked with rocket propelled grenades and several suicide bombers, according to witnesses and security agents. Officials say the death toll could go higher.
Four southwestern entry points of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, were struck on Monday by the Islamic militants, including a woman who blew herself up, killing one person and leaving 13 people wounded outside a mosque after dawn prayers.
The terror episode occurred a day after Nigerian troops fought suspected Boko Haram militants who were thought to have tried to enter the town to detonate suicide bombs. A soldier who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to reporters said troops fired against the militants who were firing rocket-propelled grenades and many people were caught in the crossfire. According to PR Nigeria news agency, Nigerian soldiers “intercepted and destroyed” 10 suicide bombers, repelling the attackers.
Authorities had fortified Maiduguri with trenches in order to prevent Boko Haram infiltration, but it was not enough:
“Some of the insurgents managed to cross into Jiddari Polo and engaged soldiers in battles with guns and explosives,” declared Usman Bala, a vigilante assisting the military.
The attacks in Maiduguri, birthplace of the group’s insurgency, might be a challenge to President Muhammadu Buhari, who declared last week that the group was “technically defeated”, since it is now limited to suicide bombers on soft targets such as markets, places of worship and bus stations. Hit-and-run attacks on villages are also part of its strategy since an army counter-offensive carried out earlier this year regained the greatest part of the territory Boko Haram had under control over the past few years.
Security agents did not give a number of deaths but resident Musa Abdukadir said he had counted over 50 bodies in the hospital after the attack and that doctors had told him more bodies had been taken to two different hospitals. According to a nurse and a guard at Maiduguri Specialist Hospital, at least 20 other bodies arrived overnight and dozens had severe wounds, most of them children and women who may not survive. As reported by Reuters, she also declared that the hospital was so crowded that some patients had to be brought to the maternity ward. Given that so many people had been blown to pieces, the body count was a difficult task to do.
The other blast happened in Madagali, Adamawa state, when two women detonated suicide bombs at a crowded meat and fish market. Victor Ezegwu, an army commander, could not give a precise toll but Dauda John, a resident, told reporters he had helped authorities to load 28 bodies in two trucks. At least 30 people were injured.