Four suicide bombings and an armed attack in Nigeria’s Northeastern city of Maiduguri last week have left fourteen dead and around forty injured. The attack is attributed to the terrorist group Boko Haram, which has carried out similar attacks repeatedly during their eight-year insurgency. Maiduguri has been the epicentre of the ongoing Boko Haram conflict, with this attack being the largest of the last eighteen months.
The attacks occurred on Wednesday, June 7th, only hours before acting president Yemi Osinbajo arrived in the city to launch a food relief program aimed at Northeastern Nigerians displaced by the continuing violence. Osinbajo has since reassured citizens that the military and police have “broken the back of this vicious insurgency”. Police Commissioner Chukwu echoed this sentiment in saying that “normalcy has been restored”, as did Army Spokesperson Brigadier Sani Kukasheka Usman in declaring “the situation cool and calm.”
Chukwu and Usman both confirmed that the attack involved assaults on Alidawari village, outside of Maiduguri, and on the suburb of Jiddari Polo, combined with several suicide bombings within the city.
Residents report that Boko Haram drove through the Jiddari Polo area, firing anti-aircraft guns, burning houses and forcing residents to flee. One civilian was trampled to death in the onslaught and witnesses say that three children were hit by bullets. According to Chukwu, soldiers “repelled the attack in a gun battle that lasted about an hour.”
The suicide bombings targeted four locations around the Chad Basin Development Authority, including a mosque. A member of the local youth civilian defence group spotted one bomber and attempted to thwart him. The young man “rushed to hold him, and the bomb went off and killed the suicide bomber and three other persons,” said a witness named Bashir. At Goni-Kachallari, a female bomber detonated in the midst of a crowd worshippers leaving prayers, killing six civilians and leaving eighteen injured.
The day following these attacks saw dozens of injured filling the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital. “It is a horrible sight we have here,” said Abba Shehu, a private security worker, “I could not count the number of injured casualties at the accident and emergency ward, most of them sitting on the floor as the place is crowded and no beds to properly admit them.”
Boko Haram, which pledged solidarity to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in 2015, has since has split into two factions. It is yet unknown which of these factions undertook last week’s attack.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has killed an estimated 20 000 people and destroyed the homes of another 2.6 million. This mass displacement is a major humanitarian crisis, with the resulting starvation and refugee migration leading to immense issues for the local governments.
Though the Nigerian military has forced Boko Haram to retreat into the remote Sambisa Forest, their attacks continue, often in the form of suicide bombings, carried out by children or young women abducted by the group.
This most recent attack has come scarcely one month after the release of five senior Boko Haram commanders in exchange for 82 schoolgirls. The girls were among 276 who were kidnapped from a boarding school in Chikbok, three years ago.
The Nigerian government is adamant that the group is on their last legs and is now focusing on rebuilding. Yet with the attack happening only six months after an official announcement of Boko Harem’s defeat, citizens are left to wonder at the permanence of this peace, to fear the abductions and bombings that continue to occur and to struggle with the destruction and displacement.
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