At least 21 dead in Maiduguri blasts

BokoAt least 21 people were killed in a series of blasts blamed on Boko Haram militants in the restive northeastern city of Maiduguri, witnesses said on Monday.

Rescuers and the military had said there were three blasts on Sunday night in the Gomari and Ajilari areas in the city’s western suburbs, without giving casualty figures.

But locals on Monday said there were four separate explosions, including at a mosque during evening prayers and among football fans watching a televised match.

Bashir Ibrahim, who lives in the densely populated Gomari area, near Maiduguri airport, said: “I saw the corpses with my own eyes. There were four separate blasts.”

The first, at Ajilari Cross, killed six while a second minutes later injured 14, including children hawking goods at the scene, he said.

Trader Faruq Ali said a third device went off at a mosque in Binta Sugar area, which is also heavily populated and close by.

“Luckily enough, only few people were observing the Isha (night prayers) but we counted 11 dead bodies and about 21 others sustained injuries,” he said.

Markus John, a tyre repairer, said the fourth bomb exploded near a football “viewing centre” close to the mosque, where fans had gathered to watch a televised match.

“We counted four dead bodies (at the viewing centre) and many others sustained injuries,” he added.

Boko Haram has previously attacked football viewing centres. The hardline Islamists consider the sport a Western diversion from religion.

The militants have also repeatedly attacked mosques, including with suicide bombers, and other “soft” civilian targets such as markets.

Nigerian army spokesman Sani Usman said in a statement on Sunday the attacks showed the “high level of desperation on the part of the Boko Haram terrorists”.

Ibrahim Abdulkadir, regional coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), on Monday said he could not give an exact death toll but told AFP: “The casualty is high.”

There was no immediate response from the police or the Borno state government when contacted by AFP.

Residents in the area claimed Boko Haram fighters, who have previously shelled Ajilari Cross, may have wanted to distract the attention of the security forces to mount an attack on the city.

Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was founded in 2002, has been attacked repeatedly, particularly since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power earlier this year, vowing to crush the uprising.

Since his inauguration on May 29, at least 1,100 people have been killed, according to AFP reporting. The majority of the attacks have been in Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital.

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