Boko Haram carried out its deadliest attacks on the key northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power, killing scores in a series of coordinated bomb blasts.
Police in the Borno state capital said that at least 54 people died in Sunday’s coordinated strikes, with 90 injured, but residents caught up in the explosions said as many as 85 lost their lives.
The attacks on Sunday night in the Ajilari Cross area and nearby Gomari, near the city’s airport, killed and maimed worshippers at a mosque, bystanders and football fans watching a televised match.
The army and rescuers said that the explosions were caused by homemade devices but one local and the police said a female suicide bomber also blew herself up.
Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was founded in 2002, has been the epicentre of the six-year-old insurgency and repeatedly attacked since Buhari assumed office.
Some 26 people were killed in a suicide attack on a Maiduguri mosque on May 30, while another attack on a cattle market three days later killed 13. The day after that strike, 18 were killed in a bomb blast.
Since his inauguration on May 29, at least 1,100 people have been killed, with the majority of attacks in Borno, according to AFP reporting.
Nigeria’s authorities have frequently downplayed the death toll from attacks in the insurgency, which has claimed at least 17,000 lives and forced more than 2 million from their homes since 2009.
“I can assure you that no fewer than 85 people died,” said resident Sabo Ahmed. “The figure given by the police is just the number of people taken to hospital.
Army spokesman Sani Usman said that the blasts, which locals believed could have been aimed to distract security forces to enable an attack on the city, “signify [a] high level of desperation on the part of the Boko Haram terrorists”.
“It’s not a setback because it is giving us a lead to how we can progress toward our success,” he told reporters in Abuja on Monday.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2015.