A weekend of car bombs and gunbattles in the heartland of Nigerian insurgency Boko Haram killed 90 people, witnesses said, many of them children caught up in a war that Nigerian officials increasingly say they’re losing.
The violence began Saturday night when back-to-back car bombs flattened a market in Maiduguri, the town where Boko Haram was born, said resident Mohammed Bukar. He counted 51 bodies laid out around the wreckage.
Many of the dead were children attending a nearby wedding or watching a soccer game on an outdoor television set, The Associated Press said, citing a Nigerian Red Cross aid worker it didn’t name. Nigerian Red Cross and government officials said they couldn’t confirm the death toll, because troops and first responders were still pulling wounded from the rubble.
Witnesses expected the death toll to rise.
“Many people must have lost their lives because the area was crowded,” said Gana Musa, a local trader. “I was very lucky to have escaped.”
Around the same time, fighters streamed into Mainok, a village 30 miles outside Maiduguri. They fired assault rifles and tossed grenades into homes, killing 39 people and eventually burning the entire town down, said Babagana Kala, a village fish seller.
More than 300 people have died in the past two weeks as Boko Haram fighters burned down village after village in a campaign to rid Nigeria of English-language education, democracy, and every foreign influence their leaders deem un-Islamic.
Nigerian officials say they are struggling to control the insurgency.
SOURCE: DREW HINSHAW and GBENGA SEUN IJAGBA
The Wall Street Journal