An explosion ripped through a crowded market on a bridge on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon on Monday, January 6, killing at least nine people and injuring many others, security sources said.
The bomb exploded around 1520 GMT on the Nigerian side of the El Beid bridge, which separates the town of Gamboru in Nigeria’s Borno state from Fotokol in Cameroon.
“Preliminary findings revealed that nine people were killed … and all are Nigerians,” an army officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Twenty-six people were injured, including 21 Nigerians and five Cameroonians, the officer said.
The total number of casualties and the cause of the blast is unclear.
Midjiyawa Bakari, the governor of Cameroon’s Far North region, said nine people died and 30 others were injured, AP reported.
“A young man picked up an explosive device thinking that it was a piece of iron and it exploded, killing him and eight others” Bakari said.
Xinhua reported that 11 people were killed in what a local journalist described as a suicide bombing.
Citing unnamed sources and witnesses, Reuters reported that at least 30 people were killed in the explosion and more than 35 injured people were taken to hospital.
The leader of a local civilian militia told AFP that the victims included young children selling groceries on the bridge. Many on the bridge jumped into the river, witnesses said.
Gamboru, a trading hub, has been rocked by violence since August 2014 when Boko Haram seized the town along with nearby Ngala. After months of fierce battles, Nigerian troops retook both towns in September 2015 with the help of Chadian forces.
But jihadist fighters continue to launch sporadic attacks on both sides of the border, ambushing troops, carrying out suicide bomb attacks and raiding refugee camps. Both Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province have claimed or been blamed for attacks in the area.
The jihadist group known as Boko Haram began its bloody insurgency in northeastern Nigeria in 2009, but it has since spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military response.
Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016. One, which is also known as JAS, is headed by long-time leader Abubakar Shekau and is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians. Shekau pledged allegiance to then-ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in March 2015, but ISIS central only gives formal backing to the other faction, which it calls Islamic State West Africa Province.
ISWAP largely focuses on attacking military and government targets. Its main area of operations is the Lake Chad area of Nigeria, Chad and Niger, and to a lesser extent Cameroon, but the group has intensified attacks on military locations in west of Borno state capital Maiduguri in recent months.
The U.S. assesses that Boko Haram and ISWAP are responsible for more than 35,000 deaths since 2011. More than two million people have been displaced by the conflict, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the region.
Media reporting on incidents involving Boko Haram and ISWAP has reduced in recent months, although ISWAP in particular continues to claim attacks, primarily in the Lake Chad area.
On September 13, the army said Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai had warned that referring to Boko Haram, JAS or ISWAP by name “could amount to supporting or encouraging terrorism,” and that “giving prominence to the criminal activities of the terrorists group through sensational headlines and fake news in both electronic and print media could also amount to tacit support to terrorism which violates the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011.”
That came after repeated statements from the army and President Muhammadu Buhari that Boko Haram had been defeated.
Chad troops leave Nigeria with Boko Haram mission ‘finished’
With reporting from AFP