Eight people were killed Sunday when a female suicide bomber detonated her explosives among women and children arriving in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri seeking to escape Boko Haram violence in the countryside.
Mohammed Kanar, a local coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said the blast happened on Sunday morning as the group arrived from Dikwa, 90 kilometres (56 miles) to the northeast.
The restive city of Maiduguri has repeatedly been attacked by Boko Haram and the latest bloodshed again underlines the threat posed by the Islamist group, which has been launching guerrilla-style attacks since being pushed out of its captured territory and camps by a Nigerian army offensive.
Kanar said the bomber in Sunday’s attack was aged about 20 and struck as the group reached a checkpoint on the outskirts of Maiduguri.
“The IDPs (interally displaced persons), mostly women and children, were stopped for security checks at the checkpoint when the bomber, disguised as an IDP, sneaked in amongst them before setting off her explosives,” he told AFP.
“Eight people were killed and seven others were injured in the incident.”
Army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman gave the same account and toll.
There has been a wave of suicide and home-made bomb attacks against civilians in urban areas recently, particularly Maiduguri, which in October alone was hit six times, killing at least 54 people.
On Saturday, four teenage girls blew themselves up in a village near Fotokol, in Cameroon’s far north region near the border with Nigeria, killing five, including a traditional chief.
Similar attacks have happened in Chad and Niger.
Dikwa was recaptured from Boko Haram in July and NEMA’s Kanar said the town had seen an influx of people from surrounding villages seeking military protection but the authorities had struggled to cope.
“They had been short of supplies, mostly food and other items, which prompted some of them to move to Maiduguri,” he added.
“We intend to make some relief distribution in the coming days.”
The six-year Boko Haram insurgency has forced some 2.6 million people from their homes and left at least 17,000 dead.
The United Nations said this week that Maiduguri’s population had swollen to 2.6 million following an influx of 1.6 million people fleeing the violence and its aftermath.
Already poor infrastructure in rural areas of Nigeria’s northeast has been destroyed by the violence, with services such as healthcare and education devastated and agriculture severely hit by the unrest.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has given his military commanders until next month to end the conflict but has conceded guerrilla-style attacks in urban centres could continue.