Two suicide bombers made their ways into the crowded Maiduguri fish market in Maiduguri on Monday and waited upon innocent traders to converge for prayers before detonating themselves, killing no fewer than 30 persons.
Hospital sources confirmed that about 30 persons had died and many others injured, as the two suicide bombers identified as teenage females, concealed the lethal explosives in their hijabs.
A source said that while the girl that caused the first blast was able to kill many traders and injured several others, the second one who appeared to have developed cold feet after the first attack, blew herself up as she was fleeing away from the crowded market.
Idrissa Idi, a smoked fish seller in the market told journalists in an interview he granted in Hausa that, “the two young girls that caused the explosions were in their teenage ages”.
“The first girl waited for the traders to commence prayers before she crept upon them and detonated the bomb, killing a large number of persons and injuring many. Some of our fellow traders said they saw the young girl wandering about shortly before the prayers.
“We all heard the second explosion coming not less than five minutes after the first blast. Those that were close to the scene said they spotted the female teenager running before she blew herself up, near BEWAC complex along Baga road,” Idi said.
Other witnesses said the girl may have suddenly become scared following the way people reacted to the first blast.
She did not go very far from the market when she exploded also, and she was the only one that died, the witnesses said.
Another source, Danlami Ajaokuta, a civilian vigilante assisting the military against Boko Haram said that “We heard a loud explosion at about 3:50 pm (1450 GMT) while we were preparing for afternoon prayers.
“It happened right inside the motor park (bus station) attached to the fish market where labourers were sorting out rice.”
He said that according to survivors’ accounts, a woman came into the bus station with a casserole dish, shouting out for customers.
“People were occupied with sorting the rice. No one paid any attention. Suddenly, the casserole, which obviously contained explosives, went off. She was blown to pieces… We have sorted out 20 dead bodies and 50 others that were injured.”
Ajaokuta’s account was supported by a labourer working at the scene who survived the blast, which sent people running in all directions in fear and panic.
“The rescue operation is still on, so the death toll may be higher at the end,” said the labourer, who asked not to be identified.
Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, has increasingly come under attack in the weeks since President Muhammadu Buhari took office on May 29, vowing to wipe out the Islamists.
Monday’s bombing takes the number of attacks in the city to five this month. Three have been by suicide bombers and one targeted a cattle market.
On June 3, an improvised explosive device left outside a mechanics’ workshop on the Baga Road killed 18 while on May 30, 26 people were killed in a suicide attack at a city mosque.
With the latest attack, some 200 people have been killed since Buhari’s inauguration, according to AFP reporting.
Nigeria and its military coalition partners of Niger, Chad and Cameroon have claimed a series of successes against Boko Haram since February, pushing the rebels out of captured territory.
But its return to guerrilla tactics aimed at “soft targets” is a sign that the insurgency, which has cost at least 15,000 lives, is not over, according to analysts.