Female Suicide Bombers In Nigeria Target Wedding, Funeral, Hospital, Killing 32

The death toll from multiple suicide bombings in the northeastern Nigerian town of Gwoza over the weekend has risen to 32, the country’s vice president Kashim Shettima said Monday.

Saturday’s attacks involving female suicide bombers targeting a wedding, a hospital and a funeral was one of the worst in northeast Nigeria in years, a reminder of the darker days of the country’s long-running struggle with jihadist militants.

“So far, 32 people lost their lives. Forty-two (injured) were brought from Gwoza,” Shettima said, visiting a hospital in the Borno State capital Maiduguri where some of the wounded were being treated.

Initial reports had estimated the death toll at 18 people.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but the Boko Haram jihadist group is active around Gwoza.

More than 40,000 people have been killed and another two million people displaced by fighting which started in 2009.

Suicide bombings in towns have become rare since the army pushed militants back from territory they controlled at the height of the conflict in 2014, though they still carry out attacks and ambushes in rural areas.

“This incident is very shocking,” Mohammed Ali Ndume, Borno senator for the ruling APC party, told reporters.

“This is a wake-up call for all of us in Borno State, that we should not be relaxed about security,” he added.

“The story of suicide bombing had gone from Borno, but it’s unfortunate it is rearing its ugly head again.”

Female bombers

On Saturday, Gwoza was the target of four almost simultaneous suicide attacks, including at least three perpetrated by female bombers, according to local emergency services. Dozens more were injured.

The first attack took place during a wedding ceremony, around 3:00 pm, when a suicide bomber set off explosives among the guests, officials said.

As funeral prayers for the victims of the wedding attack were ongoing, another female suicide bomber detonated her device, according to Barkindo Saidu, head of the local emergency services (SEMA), in a report seen by AFP.

A few minutes later, a teenage girl blew up another device near the city’s general hospital, the report said.

A member of the anti-jihadist militia, who work with the army in the city, told AFP that a fourth suicide attack had targeted a security post, killing three people including a soldier.

That has not yet been confirmed by officials.

“This is a change in approach,” said Emeka Okoro, an analyst at the Nigerian risk consultancy SBM Intelligence. “They are being more daring and more coordinated.”

He warned there was a “very high possibility of another attack in the coming days or weeks”.

Suicide attacks, including by women, have always been part of the militants’ armed struggle to establish a caliphate in the northeast of Africa’s most populous country.

A witness said one of the women attackers had two children with her, though officials have not confirmed those details.

Boko Haram jihadists seized Gwoza in 2014 after taking over parts of Borno State.

The town was retaken by the Nigerian army with the help of Chadian forces in 2015, but jihadists still launch attacks from the mountains overlooking the town on the border with Cameroon.

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu condemned the attacks in a statement on Sunday, saying the assault was a “manifestation of pressure mounted against terrorists and the success in degrading their capacity”, and called it an “isolated episode”.

An army spokesman did not respond to requests for comment about the attack.

When Tinubu came to power a year ago, he said dealing with insecurity was one of the main challenges for his government.

Nigeria’s armed forces are also fighting heavily-armed gangs of kidnappers in the country’s northwest and simmering separatist tensions in the southeast.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – AFP)

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