A girl as young as 8 is believed to be responsible for a bomb attack on a Nigerian market in which five were killed and dozens injured as defeated Boko Haram militants flee the region.
The attack took place at a security check outside a market in the northeast Nigerian town of Potiskum earlier today, Reuters reports.
It’s the third incident this year in which children have been used to carry out attacks in Nigeria, a nation stricken by violence from home-grown Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.
It comes as insurgent militants flee the region after suffering a heavy defeat to Government forces from four nations bordering the town of Baga – Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
A witness told Reuters that the girl, strapped with explosives, “let the bomb off, killing herself and five others, while many were injured”.
Resident Bala Totiskum said he saw dozens of wounded being rushed to hospital after the blast.
Both witnesses told Reuters that the bomber was “a small girl”, estimating that she can’t have been more than 8 years old.
No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but it carries the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which is believed to be responsible for a string of attacks in the region using children.
The rise of Boko Haram
The rise of Boko Haram
1/19 Boko Haram
The leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau delivers a message. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the mass killings in the north-east Nigerian town of Baga in a video where he warned the massacre “was just the tip of the iceberg”. As many as 2,000 civilians were killed and 3,700 homes and business were destroyed in the 3 January 2015 attack on the town near Nigeria's border with Cameroon
2/19 Boko Haram
People displaced as a result of Boko Haram attacks in the northeast region of Nigeria, are seen near their tents at a faith-based camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in Yola, Adamawa State. Boko Haram says it is building an Islamic state that will revive the glory days of northern Nigeria's medieval Muslim empires, but for those in its territory life is a litany of killings, kidnappings, hunger and economic collapse
3/19 Boko Haram
Nitsch Eberhard Robert, a German citizen abducted and held hostage by suspected Boko Haram militants, is seen as he arrives at the Yaounde Nsimalen International airport after his release in Yaounde, Cameroon on 21 January 2015
4/19 Boko Haram
Officials of the Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) visit victims of a bomb blast in Gombe at the Specialist Hospital in Gombe. According to local reports at least six people were killed and 11 wounded after a bomb blast in a marketplace in Nigeria's northeastern state of Gombe on 16 January 2015. Islamist militant group Boko Haram has been blamed for a string of recent attacks in the North East of Nigeria
5/19 Boko Haram
People gather at the site of a bomb explosion in a area know to be targeted by the militant group Boko Haram in Kano on 28 November 2014
6/19 Boko Haram
People gather to look at a burnt vehicle following a bomb explosion that rocked the busiest roundabout near the crowded Market in Maiduguri, Borno State on 1 July 2014. A truck exploded in a huge fireball killing at least 15 people in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the city repeatedly hit by Boko Haram Islamists
7/19 Boko Haram
President Goodluck Jonathan visits Nigerian Army soldiers fighting Boko Haram
8/19 Boko Haram
Displaced people from Baga listen to Goodluck Jonathan after the Boko Haram killings
9/19 Boko Haram
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan speaking to troops during a visit to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State; most of the region has been overrun by Boko Haram
10/19 Boko Haram
Members of the Nigerian military patrolling in Maiduguri, North East Nigeria, close to the scene of attacks by Boko Haram
11/19 Boko Haram
Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, appears in a video in which he warns Cameroon it faces the same fate as Nigeria
12/19 Boko Haram
South Africans protest in solidarity against the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria by the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram and what protesters said was the failure of the Nigerian government and international community to rescue them, during a march to the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg
13/19 Boko Haram
Boko Haram militants have seized the town in north-eastern Nigeria that nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped from in April 2014
14/19 Boko Haram
A soldier stands guard in front of burnt buses after an attack in Abuja. Twin blasts at a bus station packed with morning commuters on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital killed dozens of people, in what appeared to be the latest attack by Boko Haram Islamists, April 2014
15/19 Boko Haram
The aftermath of the attack, when Boko Haram fighters in trucks painted in military colours killed 51 people in Konduga in February 2014
16/19 Boko Haram
The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau (with papers) in a video grab taken in July 2014
17/19 Boko Haram
Ruins of burnt out houses in the north-eastern settlement of Baga, pictured after Boko Haram attacks in 2013
18/19 Boko Haram
A Boko Haram attack in Nigeria, 2013
19/19 Boko Haram
Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader
Earlier this month, a 16-year-old blew herself up at a crowded bus station, also in north-eastern Nigeria. Sixteen people were killed and Associated Press reported that witnesses said many of them were children who had either been selling peanuts or begging for money.
In January, the BBC reported that 19 people were killed in Maiduguri market, also in the North East, after a bomb was strapped to a girl believed to be around ten years old.
The market is reported to have been targeted twice in a week by female bombers last year.
Boko Haram, believed to be responsible for the attack today, recently suffered a heavy defeat as the Nigerian Army reclaimed the town of Baga, also in the north east, where the bombing took place.
The official Nigerian Army twitter account tweeted: “Military Operations in Monguno and other communities successful. God bless the Armed Forces of Nigeria.”
Islamic militants had held the town since January 3rd. The Nigerian Government claims that 150 people were killed when they took Baga and nearby Doron Baga, but locals told the BBC that the number could be as many as thousands.
But Nigerian forces, with help from its neighbours and backed by airstrikes, seized to north eastern town on Saturday, in what the military called a significant victory against insurgency.
“We have secured Baga. We are now in full control. There are only mopping up exercises to do,” Defence Spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade told Reuters.
He added that “a large number of terrorists had drowned in Lake Chad”, as they fled from military advances from the African nations.
Baga was the headquarters of an international force for all four countries and its recapture was an important one. Boko Haram forces are said to now be on the run, in this region and many others.
Olukolade added: “Not even the strategy of mining over 1,500 spots with land mines on the routes leading to the town could save the terrorists from the aggressive move of advancing troops.”
The victory comes at an important time for President Goodluck Jonathan, who is up for election on March 28th after a six-week delay, on the grounds that more time was needed to fight insurgents.
It will be welcome opportunity to talk of success after a bloody battle with Islamists in which thousands killed and 1.5-million were displaced last year alone.
Over the six-year conflict, the Suni group has killed thousands more and kidnapped hundreds, with successes in the last year that saw them carve up territory the size of Belgium.
But fleeing Boko Haram forces are often seen as dangerous to the general population. Reuters reported that militants retreating from an offensive in Sambisa killed 21 people on Friday in attacks near Chibok, where rebels abducted 200 schoolgirls last year.
Military chiefs will meet in Chad’s capital N’Djamena next week to finalist plans for an 8,700-strong task force of troops from the four countries, plus BeninReuse content