Sunday 25 March 2018

Boko Haram blamed as Nigeria bombings kill dozens

Boko Haram extremists are blamed for the latest in a string of attacks that have killed hundreds in Nigeria
Boko Haram extremists are blamed for the latest in a string of attacks that have killed hundreds in Nigeria

Nigeria's Islamic extremists chose open-air praying grounds for suicide bombings today, killing dozens of people on one of the holiest days of the Muslim calendar.

At least 15 people died as they prepared to celebrate Eid al-Fitr in north-eastern Damaturu, said police.

Nigerians who usually turn out in their finest robes to pray on the holiday stayed home in fear in Damaturu and Gombe town, where 50 more people shopping for the holiday at the main market died in two bomb blasts late last night, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

One of the bombers was a child who looked about 10 and the other was an elderly woman, said the military in a statement.

Nigeria's homegrown Boko Haram extremist group has used many women and girl bombers in recent weeks, raising fears the insurgents are turning some of their hundreds of captives into weapons. A military bomb disposal expert said almost all the female bombers are strapped with explosives that are remotely detonated.

Read more: Suicide bombs kill at least 64 people in north-eastern Nigeria

"No amount of terrorist acts would deter our resolve to stamp out terrorism and insurgency in our fatherland," said a statement from army spokesman Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman.

But Nigerians are weary of the military's promises to halt the six-year insurgency that has killed more than 13,000 people. Amnesty International puts the toll at 20,000 to include 8,000 people it charges have died in military detention - some shot, some of untreated wounds from torture, others just starved or asphyxiated in overcrowded cells.

The upsurge in violence comes after the May 29 inauguration of president Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim whose election pledge was to defeat the extremists.

Buhari is flying to Washington for a Monday meeting with president Barack Obama that is expected to focus on how the US can help the fight against Boko Haram.

The group captured world attention with the mass kidnapping in April last year of 274 mainly Christian schoolgirls in the remote town of Chibok. It sparked outrage and an international #BringBackOurGirls campaign that reached the White House.

US first lady Michelle Obama said in a radio address in May last year that she and her husband were "outraged and heartbroken" over the mass abduction. To date 219 girls remain missing.

Read more: Church suicide blast caps off bloody week as Boko Haram kills over 200 in Nigeria

US relations with Nigeria soured over the failures of the government and military. Then pesident Goodluck Jonathan was angered by the US refusal to sell his government helicopter gunships and the Nigerians halted a US military training programme.

Fences are expected to be mended under Mr Buhari, a former military dictator who has promised to address US concerns including military abuses that apparently prevented the sale of the attack helicopters. Mr Buhari has said he will fully investigate Amnesty International charges and ensure human rights abusers are prosecuted.

Press Association

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