Security agents are said to be holding an elderly man who was found on Sunday night allegedly with eight guns hidden in his pick up van in Maiduguri, Borno State capital.
The identity of the suspect was not immediately known but sources say he was arrested at the military check point on Lagos Road by soldiers who used anti-weapons scanners to detect the arms.
Eye witnesses said the arrests caused pandemonium as people rushed towards University Road, thinking another bomb had exploded.
As at last night, sources say no fewer than 90, up from 35 people reported earlier died at the weekend in Boko Haram attacks in the city. Rescuers are still searching for more bodies under the rubble at the scene of explosions.
Youth volunteers, popularly known as Civilian JTF, were combing the scene of the blasts. They were seen on major roads, such as Lagos, Customs, Damboa, Kashim Ibrahim, Bank Road, Post Office, GRA and Polo Extension – all in the Maiduguri metropolis – searching vehicles to fish out suspected insurgents who are believed to have infiltrated the town.
Chairman of the Association of Nurses and Midwives at the University of Maiduguri, Innocent Andrew, said the hospital was besieged by many residents searching for their loved ones among the dead or injured.
The death toll in weekend’s twin explosions in Maiduguri, has increased to 51.
A Red Cross official said 51 bodies had been recovered there and many more victims of the Boko Haram attack were believed buried in the rubble.
Fifty bodies were retrieved, said Hassan Ali, leader of an anti-terror vigilante group.
It also emerged that while the car bomb was going off in the state capital, insurgents were on the offensive in Mainok, a village 60 kilometres away. They killed no fewer than 39 people.
Dozens of attackers dressed in military uniforms fired rocket propelled grenades and Kalashnikovs as people prepared for prayers.
Resident Yahaya Umar said yesterday: “They came in around 7pm and opened fire indiscriminately with RPGs, explosives and AK-47 rifles.
“They killed 39 people who were buried this morning and destroyed the whole town.”
Another resident, Abdullahi Gana, gave a similar account of the incident.
“We were just lamenting the twin blasts in Maiduguri … when the Boko Haram gunmen arrived and started firing volleys of RPGs and guns,” he said
Corroborating the account, taxi driver Mansu Buba said he returned to Mainok village yesterday to find victims being buried. Mainok has been attacked many times in the past year.
A State Security Service agent said no huts were left standing. All the thatched-roof huts were gone, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to reporters.
Additional information yesterday on the Maiduguri blast indicated that some buildings collapsed. Others were set aflame with smoke billowing for hours. A resident who worked at the scene through the night but insisted on anonymity, said the victims include children dancing at a wedding celebration and people watching a soccer match at an outdoor cinema.
The first blast came from a pickup truck carrying firewood and did not cause many casualties, said Ali. Most of those killed had run to the scene to help when a second explosion blasted from a passenger car, he said.
Survivors said they captured a man who jumped out of the car, grabbed a tricycle taxi and tried to make off. He was badly beaten and taken to nearby Umaru Shehu General Hospital, where a security guard said all the wounded brought in had died. Most survivors insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Some bodies were blown apart, said market trader Mallam Sumaila. An AP reporter saw a body burnt beyond recognition at a hospital where wailing families were collecting bodies for immediate burial in the Muslim tradition.
The attackers chose a densely populated area with narrow alleyways that maximized the blasts and a Saturday night when the market was open late.
It was not known how many wounded are being treated in three hospitals in the city.
More than 300 people were killed in extremist attacks last month in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, among them pupils of the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi.
Outnumbered soldiers are accused of abandoning checkpoints and leaving civilians at the mercy of extremists in two attacks last week that killed about 100 people, including one on a high school.
Maiduguri has suffered only two attacks in the past six months: a January 14 bomb that killed about 40 people and a bold assault December 5 on the Air Force base and an army barracks on the outskirts in which all five aircraft on the runway were destroyed.
There are fears that the Boko Haram conflicts could spread. Boko Haram militants already operate in Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic and lately there have been reports the extremists are threatening to get involved in Central African Republic, where French and African troops are trying to end fighting between Muslim and Christian militias.
Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF), through its Chairman Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu, urged all stakeholders to continue to pray to God to end the scourge of what they described as “senseless killing of defenceless citizens”.
The statement by Aliyu, signed by his spokesman Danladi Ndayebo, said: “The Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) condemns the murderous terrorist attack which killed several persons at the heavily populated Ngomari-Bulumkutu area of Maiduguri, Borno State.
“The forum deeply regrets this utterly heinous descent to new depths of terror by the perpetrators at a time when security agencies are doing their best to put an end to the scourge of senseless killing of defenceless citizens”.
The forum urged members of the dreaded Boko Haram to embrace dialogue, because “the surest way to resolve grievances is through dialogue and not violence”.