Woman beaten to death in Nigerian market was 'mentally ill and not a suicide bomber', police say

Bauchi state police have said it is believed the woman 'had nothing to do with suicide bombing'

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The Independent Online

The family of a woman who was beaten to death by a crowd at a Nigerian marketplace after being accused of being a suicide bomber have said she was mentally ill, as police hunt those responsible for her death.

The woman, identified in reports as Thabita Haruna, 33, was beaten to death before her body was set alight by a crowd at Muda Lawal, the biggest marketplace in Bauchi city in the northeast of the country, on Sunday.

At the time, local police said it was unlikely the victim was a suicide bomber because she did not have any explosives when she was attacked.

Police Deputy Superintendent Mohammad Haruna described her as the victim of "mob action carried out by an irate crowd."

Bauchi state police have now told AFP it was believed the woman was "mentally sick" and "had nothing to do with suicide bombing."

Police have not yet made any arrests as they continue to investigate the incident, the BBC has reported.

Initial reports suggested the victim was a teenage girl, who aroused suspicion after refusing to be searched when she and another teenage girl arrived at the gate of the market.

She was found to have two bottles strapped to her body after the crowd assaulted her. She was then beaten to death before her body was burnt.

Relatives of the victim have now told the BBC that the 33-year-old was a market trader until she became mentally ill in 2007.

Nigeria has seen a spate of suicide bombings in recent months, carried out by Boko Haram, the militant group trying to set up an Islamist state in its heartland of northeast Nigeria.

Girls as young as ten have been used to carry explosives into public areas, which are then detonated.

It has not been clear from previous attacks whether the explosives are detonated remotely or at the site of the attack.

A multi-national military force has assembled on border towns in the region to stop the attacks spilling over onto Nigeria's neighbours.

A Chadian soldier peers into a burnt armoured vehicle displaying the black and white markings of insurgent group Boko Haram (Reuters)

On Wednesday, two soldiers were killed and a third wounded after a bomb was planted and detonated remotely by Boko Haram militants near the southeastern Niger town of Diffa, military sources told Reuters.

It was the first time Niger's army had reported being attacked with such a device since launching its campaign with Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria this year against the militant group.

Around 10,000 people died in Nigeria last year from violence related to Boko Haram, according to the US Council on Foreign Relations. Meanwhile, 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes.

Nigeria last month suspended its elections to allow the multinational force the opportunity to secure land under the control of the terrorist group.

Additional reporting by AP and Reuters