Nigeria rocked by child suicide bombings




After a week of bloodshed unleashed by militant Islamist group Boko Haram left hundreds of civilians dead across northeastern Nigeria, Ibrahim Abu wanted to forget. He and three friends had met for tea in an outdoor bar beside an open-air market in Potiskum, a small town in Nigeria’s Yobe state, when an explosion threw them to the floor.
“I looked up and saw body parts everywhere, then the body of a little girl cut in two,“ he said, his voice still shaking. As traders scrambled around him, he felt paralysed with shock. The body of another child was being pulled out of the rubble. By the end of the afternoon, three other people were dead and 26 wounded.
The bombing by two suspected child suicide bombers in a crowded market on Sunday capped a week of horror and marked an ominous escalation in violence, with elections in Africa’s most populous nation less than five weeks away.
A day earlier in the neighbouring Borno state, another young girl, also believed to have been about 10 years old, was stopped for a security check in the capital’s main market when bombs strapped to her detonated, killing at least 16 people.
Residents across Borno were already reeling after Boko Haram militants rampaged through remote villages for almost four days in what Amnesty International and the Nigerian army said was the group’s deadliest attack.
In Baga, a fishing settlement on the shores of Lake Chad, fleeing residents were unable to count the bodies. Amnesty put the number of dead at 2,000, although it did not say how it had verified the number. Other estimates said 600 was a more likely figure.
Neither Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan nor his main rival, Muhammadu Buhari, have addressed the massacres in Baga. As hundreds poured into the state capital from the hinterland, the government said it had launched ground action backed by air strikes to reclaim the area.
“We are living in fear,” said Sani Mohamed, a videographer in the capital who said displaced people were sleeping rough on the outskirts of the city. “There is panic all over Maiduguri due to the constant influx of people with horrific tales of attacks. Any security we have feels very fragile.”
Maiduguri has been patrolled by the military since a state of emergency in May, but soldiers have complained that money meant for equipment has been funnelled away by senior officials, leaving them inadequately armed against the insurgents’ weapons. Some residents said soldiers sometimes held off attacks for hours, but when reinforcements failed to arrive, they deserted their posts.
Urban areas have also been targeted. Damaturu, the state capital of Yobe, was hit on Thursday by “massive attacks from different angles”, Nigeria’s defence headquarters said.
A day of gunfire in the capital had just ended when the main police station in Potiskum was targeted. Two people died after a man was brought to the police station with his car. “We took the suspect to the station and the car exploded and killed one of my men and a driver,” state police commissioner Marcus Danladi told Reuters. Within 24 hours, the town was hit by the market attacks.
More than 10,000 people were killed last year as a result of Boko Haram’s quest to carve out an Islamic caliphate in religiously mixed Nigeria. – (Guardian service)

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