Friday 13 December 2019

Nigeria market bombing kills at least 56

The attacks mirrored others carried out by a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram. Photo: Reuters
The attacks mirrored others carried out by a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram. Photo: Reuters

Mike Pflanz

Cattle thieves raided a market in northern Nigeria, killing at least 56 people.

Gunmen firing into crowds of herders stormed the cattle sale in Potiskum in Yobe state, but were pushed back and forced to flee, witnesses said.

Three people were killed and one of the suspected thieves was burned alive by the cattle herders in retaliation.

The men then returned later in the evening, setting fire to the market and buildings that surround it, and then firing indiscriminately as people fled their burning homes, killing dozens more.

By Thursday evening, medical staff reported that morgues were overflowing, with more than 56 bodies counted in one room attached to a hospital mortuary.

Moses Namiri, the Yobe state police commissioner, said that his officers had counted 34 fatalities, but that the numbers could be higher because in the local Muslim tradition, the dead are buried within 24 hours of death.

Boko Haram, Nigeria’s Islamist insurgents, who are linked to al-Qaeda, have targeted the area in the past, but sources in Potiskum said that Wednesday’s attacks were not connected to the organisation.

“This is something more like banditry,” said a general trader in the town, who gave his name only as Farouk. “It is something that we suffer here regularly, but never as bad as what we have just seen.” But earlier this year, suspected Boko Haram sympathisers burnt to the ground several shops run by Christians from Nigeria’s south, days after the militants warned non-Muslims to leave northern towns.

Boko Haram, which wants to impose an Islamic state on Nigeria’s mixed population of Muslims and Christians, has been blamed for hundreds of killings since its uprising against the government began in 2009.

A spate of attacks in the past few days, including one against Christians in the north that killed 19 people on Sunday, have dampened hopes that tighter security had significantly reduced the sect’s capability.

Nigerian forces killed the suspected mastermind of Sunday’s attack on Christian worshippers, in a raid in the main northern city of Kano on Tuesday that resulted in a gun battle lasting several hours.

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