UPDATE: Over 50 Killed, 68 Injured in Maiduguri Market Bomb Blast [PHOTOS]
Over 50 people including 16 members of the Vigilante Youth, a.k.a Civilian JTF were killed, while about 68 persons were seriously injured when a Peugeot 505 saloon car carrying charcoal but laden with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) exploded around the busy Elkanemi Round -About, Monday Market and about 40 metres away from the office of the Power Holdings Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in Maiduguri, the Borno state Capital on Tuesday at about 7am.
Although, the Chairman of the Vigilante Youth a.k.a Civilian JTF attached to Sector 3, Mallam Iliya Saidu while briefing Governor Kashim Shettima said, his men were able to identify 9 of his members that died in the blast, but the Chairman of Monday Market Traders Association, Alhaji Bukar Jere while giving the breakdown of the number of casualty to the Governor when he visited the scene insisted that 16 Civilian JTF were among the dozens of people killed.
Briefing, Governor Kashim Shettima at the scene of the blast, the Manager Maiduguri Monday market said “16 civilian JTF were among those killed in the blast, while 69 sustained serious injuries”.
He said 4 vehicle and four tricycles, popularly called ‘ KEKE NAPEP’ were burnt in the blast, adding that the incident also affected 49 shops and Wares displayed by the petty traders on the road side.
A witness and a paramedic said the blast happened at about 8:00 a.m., when traffic was beginning to build at the roundabout, causing a major fire that engulfed vehicles and shops lining the streets.
Local vigilantes called Civilian JTF, after the special military unit battling Boko Haram, evacuated the victims of the morning blast to the State Specialist Hospital in the city.
A journalist who was at the hospital confirmed seeing 15 bodies brought in by the rescue team.
A “rescue operation is still ongoing, which means the toll may change. We have also evacuated several people with injuries from the explosion,” Kolo said.
“I saw several people lying lifeless on the street with six cars and three motorized rickshaws burning,” said resident Ibrahim Mustapha.
But an attendant at Maiduguri General Hospital said eight bodies had been brought in by civilian volunteers. However, witnesses said dozens could be dead, the Associated Press reported.
Trader Daba Musa Yobe, who works near the popular market, said the bomb went off just after the market opened at 8 a.m., before most traders or customers had arrived.
Other witnesses said they saw about 50 bodies, and that five cars and some tricycle taxis were set ablaze by the explosion.
They said the toll could have been worse but fewer than normal traders and customers were around because most people stay up late to eat during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting from sunrise to sunset.
A security official at the scene confirmed the blast, saying many casualties are feared. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press.
Most of the victims were elderly women selling peanuts and kola nuts by the roadside and poor boys, Kolo said.
The women vendors come out early in the morning and line the streets with their wares, waiting for residents leaving for work, while the child beggars mill around waiting for a generous buyer, Mustapha said.
Restive mobs besieged the area around the blast scene, barring reporters from taking photos of the carnage, and manhandled a photographer who wanted to take shots.
The mobs attacked and slightly injured four firefighters trying to quench the inferno at the scene, accusing them of not deploying fast enough to battle the fire.
A year-old government military operation against Boko Haram has so far failed to crush the rebels, whose insurgency has killed thousands since 2009, destabilizing much of the northeast of Africa’s top oil producer.
Maiduguri has witnessed relative calm since last year, when local vigilantes sprang up and chased out Boko Haram insurgents into the bush, ending near-daily deadly bombing and shooting attacks.
The city has however witnessed isolated bombings and deadly attacks blamed on Boko Haram.
Violence has been relentless in northeast Nigeria in particular, with hundreds killed in the past two months.
Boko Haram has adopted a two-pronged strategy this year of bombings in urban areas and scorched-earth attacks in northeastern villages where people are gunned down and their homes burned.
Explosions last week targeted the biggest shopping mall in Abuja, Nigeria’s central capital, killing 24 people; a medical college in northern Kano city, killing at least eight; and a hotel brothel in northeast Bauchi city that killed 10.
On Sunday, the Chibok community was attacked again in three places. Militants opened fire on churches and homes, killing dozens and burning houses to the ground.
On Monday, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the recent attacks.
A statement from his office said: “The president assures all Nigerians once again that the federal government and national security agencies will continue to intensify ongoing efforts to end Boko Haram’s senseless attacks until the terrorists are routed and totally defeated.”
Arrest in Chibok kidnap case
Before the news of the bomb blast, Nigeria’s military said it arrested a businessman suspected of being at the head of a Boko Haram intelligence network that helped plan the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in the northeast in mid-April.
The man had helped the Islamist militant group plan several attacks, including the killing of traditional ruler the Emir of Gwoza, the military said in a statement.
The AP identified the man as Babuji Ya’ari, a businessman.
Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade said in a statement reported by the AP that Ya’ari belonged to a vigilante group fighting Boko Haram and used that membership as cover “while remaining an active terrorist.”
It was unclear if the arrest could help in rescuing the girls who remain captive.
The April abduction of 276 school girls from Chibok, 219 of whom remain in captivity, has become a symbol of the powerlessness of President Goodluck Jonathan’s government to protect its civilians.
Defense spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade said in a statement that the arrested man used his membership of a pro-government vigilante group “as a cover, while remaining an active terrorist.”
Olukolade said the man had coordinated several deadly attacks in Maiduguri since 2011, including on customs and military locations as well as planting improvised bombs.
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