Written by Hamisu Kabir Matazu, Damaturu
Suicide bombings were relatively few in Yobe State up to the second week of July, only to pick up between July 17 and 26 when three incidents occurred, claiming 42 lives and inflicting injuries on at least 90 others.
At least 42 people were killed and about 90 injured in three separate attacks which occurred in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State, within 10 days. The period witnessed an upsurge in suicide bomb attacks, heightening tension in the town, especially among the hapless citizens who have either become victims or live in fear that they could be affected sooner than later if the trend continues.
The attacks occurred on July 17, 20 and 26. On July 17 when millions of Nigerians were celebrating Sallah, Suicide bombers stormed Damaturu and detonated explosives simultaneously in two separate locations, killing 15 people and injuring 41 ahead of the Eid prayer that marked the end of the month-long Ramadan fasting.
Daily Trust on Saturday observed that the blasts coincided with the visit of the new Chief of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Yusuf Buratai. The blasts occurred barely 24 hours after Buratai had arrived Damaturu to assess the readiness of troops and equipment to effectively combat insurgency in the Yobe State.
A witness told our correspondent that a tinted Volkswagen Sharon bus dropped off one of the bombers at the Eid ground before speeding off. “We were even surprised that the bus moved freely even as vehicular movements were under restriction,” he said.
One of the mosque officials, Alhaji Muhammdu Gulani, said the bomber was a middle-aged woman who refused to submit herself to security search and dropped a bag of explosives that killed five mosque guards and three children.
Muhammadu recalled that: “They were searching a man with his family when the woman arrived. She resisted all attempts by the mosque guards to stop her from advancing. One of the guards pushed her aside, telling her to go away if she was not ready to be checked. It was then that she quickly dropped the bag of explosives that went off and killed the guards and the children on the spot while those that sustained injuries were taken to hospital for treatment.”
Malam Musa Lawan, a resident of Gwange, said the other suicide bomber detonated the second of the twin blasts amidst a crowd of people trying to identify where the first bomb blast had occurred.
The second bomb attack came barely three days after on July 20 around 11:30 am when the Yobe State police command apprehended a Toyota Highlander SUV loaded with explosive devices close to Damaturu township gate along the Damaturu- Maiduguri highway. Yobe State police spokesman, Mr. Toyin Gbadegesin, explained that a patrol team had stopped the vehicle for a search, suspecting it to be carrying explosive devices.
“In the process of looking for reinforcement to convey the suspects to the state police command, the suspected Boko Haram terrorist triggered the Improvised Explosive Devices(IED) which killed five people on the spot while three more died later in the hospital,” Gbadegesin said. He said that five suicide bombers, including a woman, were killed in the explosion.
“Five of them carrying the explosives died, three of our policemen died and two others that were critically injured are still receiving treatment. One of the suicide bombers, a woman who was critically injured before her death, concealed five mortar explosives in her handbag but the explosives were diffused by a detachment of police Explosives Ordinance Department (EOD),” the police spokesman stated.
Yobe State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Marcus Danladi told newsmen that after a thorough search by the men of the EOD, six more unexploded bombs were discovered in the bombers’ Jeep.
Danladi said four pieces of 81mm calibre capable of travelling 1000 metres radius and two other improvised ones were recovered and effectively diffused at the blast scene. He said a woman who was crying for help at the scene of the blast was aiming to trigger the five mortar bombs capable of travelling 500 metres radius to claim more lives, and that her ploy was to gather a maximum number of people around her.
“Her mission was fruitless as she was ignored by the officers and men on ground, having known her mission. The mortar bombs on her were recovered after she died from injuries she sustained and effectively diffused,” the commissioner of police added.
The third attack on July 26 involved a young female suicide bomber who detonated explosives strewn around her body at Sunday Market in Damaturu, leading to the death of 19 people and inflicting injuries on 47 others.
Witnesses and security sources said the explosion occurred around 9:45 am at one of the entrances of the market when the female suicide bomber joined a queue for security checks and detonated the explosives strapped on her body. Following the explosion, 15 people and the suicide bomber died on the spot.
“The bomber was a young girl of about 10 years old. She joined a crowd where a woman security operative was conducting checks at the market entrance. She detonated the explosives on her. Spluttered blood and mangled flesh littered the scene as the 15 people were dismembered,” one witness said, asking not to be named.
The blast led to the closure of the weekly market that accommodates traders from towns and villages across various local government areas of the state.
A market official, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent that the woman conducting the security search and a mentally-challenged woman sitting by the gate were among the 15 people that died on the spot.
The market official, describing how the blast occurred and what its effects were, said: “The girl had taken everyone unawares because she was very little and she showed no sign of guilt. She blew herself and 14 innocent people up, throwing hundreds of family members into mourning. My friend with whom we worked here for over 20 years died on the spot, and his was a very large family.”
Yobe State police spokesman confirmed the bomber‘s age, adding that three females and 12 males were killed while 47 others sustained various degrees of injuries.
In their renewed fierce hits in the state, a suicide bomber also attacked a church where he killed six worshippers at a Sunday service in a small Redeemed Christian Church of God on the outskirts of Potiskum town, along Bauchi road.
Witnesses and security sources said the bomber disguised as a worshipper and joined the church in prayers before detonating the bomb around 9:30 am. A resident, Master Jibril, said four worshippers and the pastor died on the spot.
“He (the bomber) came holding a Bible. Everyone thought he came for the Sunday service. That was how he gained access into the church and carried out the evil act. The casualties could have been more if the church was full. He met only five people inside the church. Four women and the pastor and the blast killed them all,” Jibril told Daily Trust on Saturday.
Residents of Damaturu have described the recent suicide bombings as more devastating and more difficult to deal with than previous attacks that gave them sleepless nights when the insurgents forced their way into the town.
Malam Ibrahim Ahmed said: “People should understand that the tactics of these terrorists need collective and holistic approach to deal with because no one is safe and everywhere is susceptible to this evil attacks. Suicide attacks are the most difficult war to face. We can learn a lesson from America in Afghanistan. We most all cooperate to end this terror.”
Security operatives in the state have embarked on sensitisation campaigns to enhance relationship with the civilians so as to end the terror attacks. The Yobe police command has directed community and religious leaders to launch ‘Operation Know your neighbor’ to acquaint themselves with people and their activities in their respective communities, while the Nigerian Army is providing free medical services for residents of Damaturu under its medical outreach scheme to build a cordial civil/military relationship.
Observers share the opinion that the terrorists were provoked into the recent heightened attacks by the serous operation taking place in the two liberated local governments areas hitherto under the control of the insurgents in the southern Yobe – Gujba and Gulani.
It is recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari has categorically stated that he will decisively deal with the terrorists, and from all indications, the war is succeeding because people have started returning to their abandoned homes in towns and villages once under Boko Haram control.
Observers believe that the frequent suicide blasts by female suicide bombers in Damaturu may have be Boko Haram sect`s way saying that they remain strong despite the defeats they suffered, especially in the weeks leading to the March/April 2015 general elections.
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