Suicide bombers kill 58 at Nigerian camp for those fleeing Boko Haram
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: When three
girls showed up on Monday at a camp for people who had fled the militant group
Boko Haram, they were welcomed and offered a place to sleep.
But early Tuesday morning, as the
first light spread across the sprawling camp, two of the girls blew themselves
up with bombs they had been concealing, killing 58 people and wounding 78.
The victims were among the more
than 50,000 people who had been forced from their homes by Boko Haram’s
rampages, only to be confronted with the same horror in the very place they had
The episode at the Dikwa camp for
displaced persons follows a pattern of murderous attacks that Boko Haram has
carried out since the Nigerian military began rooting the militants from
strongholds across the northern part of the country.
Yet Tuesday’s attack could have
been worse. One of the would-be bombers recognised her parents and siblings in
the camp and decided not to detonate her device, according to Sani Datti of
Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency. Instead, the girl surrendered
to the authorities and warned that future attacks were being planned for the
camp, according to other emergency officials.
Since taking office, President
Muhammadu Buhari has made destroying Boko Haram a chief imperative. His
reorganization of the military and new cooperation with countries that neighbour
the north of Nigeria has proved effective. The new offensive has scattered
fighters who once dominated numerous villages.
Yet while on the run in recent
months, members of the group have managed to carry out assaults across the
country’s north as well as across national borders that have left hundreds
dead. This month, in the village of Dalori near here, Boko Haram burned homes,
massacred civilians and abducted children.
The Islamist extremist group has
long used suicide bombers but increasingly has deployed women and young girls.
The explosives they carry are often concealed under religious gowns. Boko Haram
has been shifting tactics with bombers, hiding explosives in a bag of okra in
one attack, and having attackers pretend to be mentally ill.
The group has also attacked camps
established for people who have fled its violence. Last fall, a bomb killed
seven people at the Malkohi camp in a neighbouring state.
The attack on Tuesday on the
Dikwa camp was apparently carried out in revenge after Nigerian soldiers had
stormed a market that Boko Haram was operating in the village of Boboshe.
Soldiers killed 100 Boko Haram
members during the raid, local officials said, and freed as many as 1,000 women
and girls who were being held, some as sex slaves. The women and girls were
taken to the Dikwa camp. (Courtesy: The New York Times)