Tuesday, December 23, 2014 1:11 am
Two blasts rocked crisis-hit northern Nigeria on Monday, with one bombing killing at least 20 people and a second explosion setting fire to a market, where heavy casualties were feared.
The targeted cities of Bauchi and Gombe have both been hit previously by Boko Haram and while there was no claim of responsibility for the latest unrest, the Islamists were suspected.
Separately, witnesses said Boko Haram gunmen stormed the northeast town of Geidam at the weekend, razing several government buildings and a prison in an attack that set many inmates free.
Violence in the northeast is escalating ahead of Nigeria’s February 14 general elections, with many concerned that voting will be impossible in large parts of the region.
The first bombing hit the Dukku motor park on the outskirts of Gombe city, capital of Gombe state, at roughly 10:50 am (0950 GMT), officials said.
State secretary for the Red Cross Abubakar Yakubu Gombe said his staff sent 20 body bags to the scene and “they have all been exhausted”, adding that another 18 people with “serious” injuries had been taken to hospital.
The bomb had been planted near a bus that was waiting to fill up, officials said.
The Islamists have claimed a number of attacks at bus stations, often targeting people who are heading to Nigeria’s mainly Christian south.
Witness Awwalu Lame said a mob formed at the station shortly after the blast went off, with locals throwing stones at the security services.
Anger has risen across northern Nigeria amid complaints that the security services have repeatedly failed to contain the violence.
– Market in flames –
The second blast hit Bauchi city, the capital of Bauchi state, at roughly 5:00 pm (1600 GMT) but there was no confirmation that a bomb was responsible.
“There was an explosion in the market with a large number of women traders,” said Adamu Abubakar of the Red Cross in Bauchi. “There are heavy casualties of course, but for now we can’t do anything until the fire is put out.”
Multiple witnesses gave a similar account, including Ishak Lawan, who said firefighters were struggling to control the raging inferno.
– Town ransacked –
Boko Haram gunmen stormed Geidam in Yobe state on Sunday, setting fire to several buildings and forcing residents to flee into the bush, witnesses said.
“They were chanting Allahu Akbar and firing shots and throwing bombs,” said resident Adamu Shehu.
“We spent a night in the bush but from afar we could see in the darkness flames and smoke coming from the town,” he said.
Geidam is the hometown of Yobe’s governor Ibrahim Geidam and his home was also razed, witnesses said.