Two explosions ripped through a bustling market in northeast Nigeria’s Madagali town Friday morning, killing at least 30 people and wounding more than 60, a survivor and an official said.
#BREAKING 30 killed in Boko Haram suicide attacks in NE Nigeria: army
— AFP news agency (@AFP) December 9, 2016
The attack comes as Nigeria’s government claims it is routing the Boko Haram Islamic extremists blamed for the blasts.
The blasts occurred on the edge of the extremist group’s Sambisa Forest stronghold, which Nigeria’s military has been bombing ahead of ground assaults. Since the military has dislodged the insurgents from towns and villages this year, they have been attacking soft targets.
Madagali was liberated last year after months in the hands of Boko Haram. It is 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of the biggest northeastern city, Maiduguri.
Friday’s blasts struck simultaneously at opposite ends of the market selling grains and vegetables, according to Ahmadu Gulak, a driver who was buying tea there. He told The Associated Press he counted at least 10 bodies. At least 67 people were wounded and taken to a hospital for treatment, said spokesman Sani Datti of the National Emergency Management Agency. He did not have the number of dead.
Police spokesman Othman Abubakar confirmed the blasts and said it was unclear if the attacks came from suicide bombers or planted explosives.
A bus station near the same market was targeted by two women suicide bombers who killed at least 30 people in December 2015. In June, Boko Haram extremists opened fire on mourners at a funeral in Madagali, killing 18 people.
The attacks continue despite government and military assertions that the insurgents are on the run. President Muhammadu Buhari had declared the extremist group was “technically defeated” in December 2015. Last week, a year later, he said a multinational force from Nigeria and neighboring states is readying to “move simultaneously and spontaneously for us to see the end of Boko Haram.”
Buhari said the insurgents “are done for” in the Lake Chad Basin bordering Nigeria, Chad and Niger. But the United Nations says more than 1 million people are believed trapped there by ongoing fighting without food or medical help.
Boko Haram’s seven-year uprising has killed more than 20,000 people and forced 2.6 million from their homes. The United Nations has launched a $1 billion appeal to help 5.1 million people in danger of starvation, calling the crisis in northeast Nigeria the worst on the African continent.
Buhari has accused the U.N. and aid agencies of exaggerating the crisis to seek donations.
“The government seems to be more interested in managing perception,” Lagos-based SBM Intelligence analysts said Friday, saying much of the crisis “is rooted in the ineptitude of the (state) agencies involved, rife corruption causing diversion of the food aid, and the still-present threat of Boko Haram ambushes, which make the provision of supplies a risky undertaking.”
The Associated Press has reported that children already are dying of acute malnutrition in the relatively accessible Maiduguri city.
Faul reported from Lagos, Nigeria.