Two young girl 'suicide bombers' blow themselves up near Nigerian market

Double attack bears hallmark of Islamist group Boko Haram

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The Independent Online

Two girls thought to be around seven or eight years old died in blasts in a crowded area near a market in Nigeria, killing one person and wounding 18, officials have said.

The doubl attack in Maiduguri was not immediately claimed, but bore the hallmark of Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group which has been waging an insurgency to establish an Islamic state in the country.

One bomber appeared no older than seven and the second about eight years old, Abdulkadir Jabo, a civilian self-defence fighter who stopped them from going into the market said.

"I asked the older girl where she was going but she could not speak Hausa or Kanuri ... and appeared very unsettled, so I turned her back," he said.

Seconds later, the device she was wearing exploded, followed by that on the younger girl, he added. It is unlcear if they detonated the bombs, of if they were detonated remotely.

Police Commissioner Damian Chukwu identified the bombers as teenage girls. Earlier, officials said they were a man and a woman. There was no way to resolve the discrepancies. 

The blast occured near Maiduguri's Monday Market, just weeks after the state government reopened the roads leading to the market.

They had been closed for two years over security concerns after previous bombings at the market killed dozens of people.

Boko Haram has used scores of women and girls in suicide bombings, prompting suspicions some o those are among the many thousands they have kidnapped over the years. 

In one particularly horrific instance, a female suicide bomber carrying a baby on her back was shot by soldiers at a checkpoint on 28 November, detonating her explosives and killing the woman and the baby. 

The latest attack comes after two schoolgirl suicide bombers killed 57 people and wounded 117, including 120 children, in a coordinated attack on a crowded market in the town of Madagali 150 kilometres (95 miles) southeast of Maiduguri on Friday. 

Suicide bombings and attacks on military camps continue since the military dislodged insurgents from towns and villages earlier this year, though Nigeria's government claims it has the insurgents on the run.

President Muhammadu Buhari declared the uprising "technically defeated" a year ago. On Friday, he vowed Nigeria's military is working "at slamming the final nail in the coffin of Boko Haram".

The seven-year insurgency has killed more than 20,000 people, forced 2.6 million from their homes and created a massive humanitarian crisis.

Addtional reporting by Associated Press