Twin bombings kill around 50 at market in northeast Nigeria

  • Reuters, Abuja
  • Updated: Jul 17, 2015 10:45 IST

Two bombings by suspected Boko Haram militants, an Islamist extremist group, killed an estimated 50 people at a market in the northeastern Nigerian city of Gombe on Thursday, officials from two disaster agencies said.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the blasts, which went off around 5:30pm local time (1630 GMT), but suspicion is likely to fall on the militant Islamist group which has attacked the city several times during a six-year insurgency that has killed thousands.

A Red Cross official, who was involved in the evacuation, and a National Emergency Management Agency representative said about 50 people were killed. Both asked to remain anonymous.

Around 70 people were injured in the attacks, the Red Cross official added.

"We saw people on the ground burnt. Then people started running. Then there was another blast which killed more people," said witness Awalu Yakubu, describing the period of around five minutes between the two blasts in Gombe.

President Muhammadu Buhari has made crushing Boko Haram his top priority, but hundreds have been killed in bombings and attacks concentrated in the northeast of Africa's top oil producer since he was inaugurated on May 29.

Buhari replaced his defence chiefs on Monday as part of an attempt to step up the campaign against Boko Haram, which is trying to establish a state adhering to strict Sharia law in the country's predominantly Muslim northeast.

The radical Islamist group controlled a swathe of land around the size of Belgium at the end of 2014. Nigeria earlier this year managed to push the militants out of most of that territory with the help of troops from neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

But the insurgents were dispersed and in recent weeks have carried out a string of attacks in northern Nigeria as well as its bordering countries.

Nigeria's President has worked with regional counterparts to set up a multinational joint task force involving troops from the neighbouring countries affected by the insurgency.

Buhari's spokesperson said the Nigerian leader will seek help in fighting militants across west Africa when he meets US President Barack Obama for talks in Washington on Monday as part of a four-day visit.

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