By Michael Olukayode, Bloomberg on Business Day Live
Picture: AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
MAIDUGURI — More than 60 people died in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri as suicide bombers targeted civilians and the army clashed with suspected Islamist militants on Sunday.
In the deadliest attack, two female suicide bombers killed about 40 people near a mosque in the Sulemanti area of the capital of Borno state, according to local vigilante militia group member Hassan Ibrahim. Two other bombers detonated explosives behind a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation gasoline station, killing another 19 people, he said.
More than 10 were killed in clashes between militants and the armed forces at the Jiddari Polo area, where the insurgents attacked a bar and residences, and Alidawari village, Ibrahim said. The army said it intercepted and killed 10 suicide bombers on the outskirts of Maiduguri.
"The troops laid ambush on the terrorists’ suspected routes along Damboa road and eliminated them," army spokesman Colonel Mustapha Anka said in a statement late on Sunday. "The explosive-ordnance device team have been mobilised and they are clearing the debris."
Maiduguri, the birthplace of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, was last attacked by a bomber about a month ago. While Nigeria’s military this year has pushed back and dislodged Boko Haram’s hold on territory in the northeast, suicide attacks and sporadic violence in the region continue.
Boko Haram militants are in the sixth year of a violent campaign that has killed thousands to impose their brand of Islamic law on Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who took office in May, said last week that Nigeria had technically won the war against the insurgents and that Boko Haram could not launch conventional attacks against the armed forces. Mr Buhari had given the military a deadline to defeat the group by the end of this year.
The conflict has displaced more than 2-million Nigerians who have fled the violence in the northeast, which has also spilled over into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. While Mr Buhari wants those living in displacement camps to return home next year, authorities in the region have struggled to convince them to go back to their communities.