MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AFP) – At least 19 people were killed on Saturday when a young girl, thought to be aged about 10, blew herself up at a crowded market in the restive northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri.
The powerful explosion rocked the city’s Monday Market at about 12.40pm (1140 GMT) when it was packed with shoppers and traders. The same market was hit twice by female suicide bombers late last year.
The latest atrocity came a week after a major Boko Haram attack on the fishing town of Baga in northern Borno State, which is believed to be the worst in the bloody six-year insurgency.
The town and at least 16 nearby settlements in and around Lake Chad were burnt to the ground and at least 20,000 people forced to flee their homes.
“For five kilometres (three miles), I kept stepping on dead bodies until I reached Malam Karanti village, which was also deserted and burnt,” one survivor, fisherman Yanaye Grema, said.
But there was no independent corroboration of huge numbers of dead cited locally.
In Maiduguri, there was no immediate claim of responsibility but Boko Haram has increasingly used women and young girls as human bombs in their deadly campaign for a hardline Islamic state.
Ashiru Mustapha, a civilian vigilante, said the explosives detonated as the girl was being searched at the entrance to the market. “The girl was about 10 years old and I doubt if she actually knew what was strapped to her body,” he told AFP.