Two teenage female suicide bombers blew themselves up in a busy market in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri on Tuesday, killing at least 30 people and raising fears about growing violence in the city.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. But suspicion fell immediately on Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that has led an intensifying insurgency in the region over the last five years. It's also suspected of having carried out similar bombings in Maiduguri in recent months.
The bombing looks like evidence of Boko Haram's ongoing ability to evade government forces. The Nigerian Army drove the group from Maiduguri following its formation there in 2002, but has since struggled to maintain peace and security across the bustling city of 1 million people.
Abba Aji Kalli, a state security official, told The Associated Press that two girls dressed in headscarfs entered the marketplace and set off their explosives. The first detonated her bomb and killed about three people. The second girl waited until a crowd gathered and then detonated.
"While the people were trying to help the injured, the second bomb blasted," a witness, Sani Adamu, told Reuters. "I saw lots of bodies."
In July, a blast killed 56 people in the same market area in Mauduguri when a car bomb hit a group of traders and shoppers. Boko Haram has been blamed for at least five female suicide bombings in Nigeria since June, the BBC reports.
Maiduguri is the provincial capital and largest city in Borno state, one of three states in northeastern Nigeria that is under a state of emergency because of attacks by Boko Haram. More than 1,500 people have been killed across Nigeria by Boko Haram this year, according to Amnesty International.
The Christian Science Monitor reported in September that the group controlled a large number of towns and villages in Borno, fueling concerns that it was preparing to launch an assault on the capital. As Heather Murdock reported:
As towns in the north fall and Boko Haram adds fighters and equipment, the prospect of an attack on Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, grows substantially, says Yan St. Pierre, CEO of Berlin-based security firm, MOSECON.
Boko Haram’s current strategy appears to be to take over remote areas in preparation for a strike on Maiduguri, which is heavily fortified by the Nigerian Army, according to Mr. St. Pierre.
“While the government puts all the resources in the big city, they strike in the belt around that city,” he said. “And at some point when they feel the time is right, then they go for the kill shot.”
On Monday, suspected insurgents took over Damasak, a town less than 125 miles from Maiduguri, the BBC reported. The militants set fire to houses and killed an unknown number of people.
The group, whose name can be translated as "Western education is sinful," preaches a harsh version of Islamic law that forbids girls from attending school and says boys should only receive an Islamic education.