Several explosions ripped through Nigeria’s troubled northeastern and predominantly Muslim city of Maiduguri on Friday, including a suicide bomb attack on military offices, the army said.
Another one of the bombs went off outside the offices of the state intelligence agency, a military spokesperson in the city said.
Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the city headquarters of the Joint Task Force (JTF), the military unit deployed to curb violence in Maiduguri, he said.
JTF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed said the attackers driving in a black SUV failed to enter the complex because of tightened security.
“The suicide bombers on seeing their frustration, they decided to detonate their explosives some 50 metres away from the gate,” he told Agence France-Presse by phone.
“The suicide bombers naturally died in the explosion,” he said, adding that no one else was killed in the attack though there was damage to the building.
The attack comes two days ahead of the annual Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, and three days after the military embarked on door-to-door searches for weapons in a bid to end the unrest that has hit the area in recent months.
The city has been a target of bomb and gun attacks by an Islamist sect known as Boko Haram.
Mohammed said at the same time as the attempted raid on the JTF headquarters two “simultaneous attacks” were being staged in other parts of the city, including a roadside bombing near the offices of the state secret police.
Parts of the military headquarters were damaged, he said.
Soldiers have in the past been accused of rampaging through neighbourhoods after such explosions, killing residents, burning homes and claiming locals cooperated with the sect.
Residents reported hearing loud explosions just around the time of the Muslim Friday prayers.
“We have heard a series of explosions throughout the city,” housewife Aisatu Kabir told AFP on the phone from the restive city.
The explosions, which occurred at short intervals, sent most of the city’s residents indoors, she said, adding: “The roads have been deserted.”
A local journalist told AFP: “I was at home just after the prayers when I heard three separate explosions coming from different areas.”
Maiduguri has been hit by scores of attacks blamed on Boko Haram, which also claimed responsibility for the August suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja that killed at least 24 people.
Thousands of residents have already fled Maiduguri for fear of further violence. The city, located in Nigeria’s far northeast near the border with Chad, Cameroon and Niger, has borne the brunt of the violence blamed on the sect.
Meantime in another part of northern Nigeria, hundreds of youths staged angry protests after gunmen overnight opened fire on a congregation of Christians praying at a village in Kaduna state.
The attack took place in an area where hundreds of people were killed in violence which erupted following the April election victory of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, against his closest rival Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim.
Police across the country have meantime been placed on “red alert” from Friday till end of next week as Muslims celebrate the Eid.
In a statement the police chief Hafiz Ringim ordered round-the-clock patrols and deployment of anti-terrorist and anti-bomb squads especially to vulnerable areas.
Nigeria’s more than 160-million people are divided roughly between Muslims and Christians. — AFP