A bomb explosion in a market in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Saturday killed at least 16 people and injured more than 20, a security source and witnesses said.
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Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, is often bombed as it lies in the heartland of an insurgency by Sunni Muslim militants Boko Haram to revive a medieval caliphate in Africa’s most populous country, also the continent’s biggest energy producer.
A Nigerian security source said at least 11 people were killed and 24 injured by a bomb that went off at 12:15 p.m. (11:15 GMT). There were at least 16 bodies of bomb victims counted in one hospital by mid-afternoon, civilian joint task force member Zakariya Mohammed told Reuters.
Meanwhile, hundreds of bodies — too many to count — remain strewn in the bush near Braga, a town on the border with Chad, where insurgents seized a key military base on January 3 and attacked again on Wednesday. Amnesty International suggested Friday it was the “deadliest massacre” in the history of Boko Haram.
“Security forces have responded rapidly, and have deployed significant military assets and conducted airstrikes against militant targets,” government spokesman Mike Omeri said in a statement.
District head Baba Abba Hassan said most victims are children, women and elderly people who could not run fast enough when insurgents drove into Baga, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on town residents.
“The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous,” Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesman for poorly armed civilians in a defense group that fights Boko Haram, told The Associated Press.
He said the civilian fighters gave up on trying to count all the bodies. “No one could attend to the corpses and even the seriously injured ones who may have died by now,” Gava said.
An Amnesty International statement said there are reports the town was razed and as many as 2,000 people killed.
If true, “this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.
Also yesterday, two suicide bombers, arrested by police in a vehicle, blew themselves up in the main police station of north Nigeria’s Potiskum in Yobe state, residents who witnessed the scene said.
A death toll was not immediately available.
Yobe state is one of three northeastern states frequently attacked by Sunni jihadist group Boko Haram, which is trying to carve out an Islamic state. On Friday evening, the army repelled an attack by insurgents in Yobe state capital Damaturu.
Emergency workers said this week they are having a hard time coping with scores of children separated from their parents in the chaos of Boko Haram’s increasingly frequent and deadly attacks.
Just seven children have been reunited with parents in Yola, capital of Adamawa state, where about 140 others have no idea if their families are alive or dead, said Sa’ad Bello, the coordinator of five refugee camps in Yola.
He said he was optimistic that more reunions will come as residents return to towns that the military has retaken from extremists in recent weeks.
Suleiman Dauda, 12, said he ran into the bushes with neighbors when extremists attacked his village, Askira Uba, near Yola last year.
“I saw them kill my father, they slaughtered him like a ram. And up until now I don’t know where my mother is,” he told The Associated Press at Daware refugee camp in Yola.
“Right now, there are 27 injured people in Borno Medical Hospital while more were taken to other hospitals,” he said.
Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in Nigeria’s northeast are worst affected by the Boko Haram five-year-old insurgency. Last year more than 10,000 people died in the bloodshed.