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    Sunday, 17 June 2018

    Suicide blasts in NE Nigeria kill at least 43: official

    Deadly weekend attacks by suspected Boko Haram jihadists using young girls as suicide bombers killed 43 people in northeastern Nigeria, officials said Monday, updating the toll.
    Blasts ripped through the town of Damboa in Borno state on Saturday evening targeting people returning from celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, in an attack bearing all the hallmarks of Boko Haram.
    “About 43 lost their lives, 12 individuals who are desperately injured” are being flown by helicopter to the Maiduguri with help from the ICRC, local official Kaumi Wakil told AFP, referring to the capital of Borno and the birthplace of Boko Haram.
    Wakil said 35 others were injured and were in the “process of referral to the ICRC clinic” in Biu. Another local official confirmed the new death toll, which had initially been reported as 31.
    Following the suicide bombings, the jihadists fired rocket-propelled grenades into the crowds that had gathered at the scene of the attacks, driving the number of casualties higher.
    “Civilians consistently bear the brunt of the conflict and over 200 women, children and men have now been killed in indiscriminate attacks in the north-east since the beginning of the year,” the UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria Myrta Kaulard said. “I urge the government of Nigeria to further step up protection of people.”
    Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari came into power in 2015 vowing to stamp out Boko Haram, but the jihadists continue to stage frequent attacks, targeting both civilians and security forces.
    The deadly violence, which has claimed more than 20,000 lives in nine years, has put Buhari under pressure as elections approach in February next year.
    The suicide bombers detonated their explosives in Shuwari and nearby Abachari neighbourhoods in the town around 10:45 pm (2145GMT), killing six residents, said Kolo, speaking from the state capital Maiduguri, which is 88 kilometres (55 miles) from the town. “No one needs to be told this is the work of Boko Haram,” Kolo said.
    A local government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the death toll. “Most of the casualties were from the rocket projectiles fired from outside the town” after the bombings, he said.
    “It was later realised the suicide attacks were carried out by six underage girls whose decapitated heads were found at the scene by rescue teams. They were between seven and 10 years, from their looks,” said the official.
    The gruesome attack is the latest example of Boko Haram’s continued threat to Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, said Ryan Cummings, Africa analyst at the Signal Risk consultancy in South Africa.
    “Boko Haram still maintains both the intent and operational capacity to launch mass casualty attacks in parts of northeastern Nigeria,” Cummings said, despite the government’s repeated claims that the group is on the back foot.
    The use of the rockets is “particularly conspicuous,” Cummings said, as it “indicates that the sect continues to have access to military-grade weaponry.”
    “The Boko Haram insurgency is not showing any immediate signs of easing,” said Cummings. The jihadist group has regularly deployed suicide bombers - many of them young girls - in mosques, markets and camps housing people displaced by the nine-year insurgency.
    On May 1 at least 86 people were killed in twin suicide blasts targeting a mosque and a nearby market in the town of Mubi in neighbouring Adamawa state. The attacks have devastated Nigeria’s northeast, one of the country’s poorest regions where illiteracy and unemployment are rampant.
    Seeking purpose and money, disillusioned and jobless young men have turned to the radical Islam of Boko Haram, which decries Western colonialism and the modern Nigerian state.
    In their quest to carve out a caliphate, the jihadists have razed towns to the ground, kidnapped women and children and slaughtered thousands of others, putting many more on the brink of starvation.
    The militants stormed the Government Girls Technical College in Dapchi on February 19, seizing over 100 schoolgirls in a carbon copy of the abduction in Chibok in 2014 that caused global outrage.
    The deadly violence has put Buhari under pressure as elections approach in February next year. Along with Boko Haram, Buhari faces the continued threat of militants in the oil-rich south, separatists in the southeast and an upsurge in communal violence in the country’s central region.
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