“Maiduguri is gradually being captured. Its location is almost in the middle of Borno State and only the Maiduguri-Damaturu axis of the roads leading to it can boast of relative calm.”
These were the words of Jack Vince, a Maiduguri, Borno State-based freelance journalist shortly after a male and female suicide bombers detonated Improvised Explosive Devices at the city’s market on Tuesday.
About 59 people died and 92 others injured in the attacks which occurred at 11. 23 am.
Thirty five of the corpses, according to medical sources, were deposited at the mortuary of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.
The remaining 24 corpses were taken to the state specialist hospital in the troubled city.
A military source told our correspondent that the female bomber was the first to detonate her IED, “killing herself and some traders and their customers who were near her.”
He added, “Just as people gathered around her corpse and few other people that died in the first explosion, the male bomber detonated the explosive on him. No one can give you the exact casualty now but over 50 people were killed and many have been rushed to hospital.”
Earlier, some traders at the market had claimed that the attacks were carried out by two female suicide bombers believed to be members of Boko Haram.
One of them, Abba Kolo, said he counted “more down 40 corpses.”
“As I am talking to you we are still trying to rescue the injured and evacuate the corpses of almost 60 traders and people who came to purchase things in the market.”
A youth vigilante, Hassan Ibrahim, however claimed that the female attacker kept a parcel in a shop on One-Way, a commercial area beside the popular market, which detonated as she made to walk away.
“As people were still wondering what happened and trying to rescue the injured, another bomber in the same area detonated a bomb planted on his body. This claimed so many lives.”
A trader, Ali Bukar, said, “They were two suicide bombers. The first detonated an IED, killing herself and many people. But as traders and their customers were running for their lives, the other bomber detonated his own, killing many more. I saw about 14 tricycles evacuating corpses to the hospital.”
A worker at the UMTH said “about 35 corpses and 42 injured persons were brought to our facility”.
The state’s Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary and Executive Secretary Hospital Management Board, Salisu Bura, told Governor Kashim Shettima that 24 corpses were deposited at the hospital.
He also told the governor, who visited the victims at the State Specialist Hospital, that 54 people were admitted.
“Out of this number, 14 of them who were critically injured have been referred to the UMTH for proper treatment while 20 have been discharged.”
Our correspondent however gathered that one of the injured, a 14-year-old boy, died after.
Shettima described the bombers as “wicked” and wondered why they had chosen traders and children as their targets.
Journalists were not allowed to take pictures of the site of the explosions by security agents.
A photojournalists with the Daily Trust, Tunji Omirin, who was nearly beaten up by soldiers had his camera seized.
The Public Relations Officer of the state police command, Gideon Jubrin, did not give the number of the casualties.
“I can confirm to you that there were explosions at the Maiduguri Monday Market today(Tuesday) but I cannot give you details now as our men and the military are on ground to bring back order,’ he told journalists on the telephone.
Jubrin added, “Whatever figures you heard from the hospital source are their own figures, but as you know, we are still evacuating corpses. We have yet to count the corpses. This is a sad situation, I will update you whenever we are able to clear the scene and know the casualty figure.”
There was however high security alert in Maiduguri after the explosions.
Armed security operatives were seen screening vehicles, thereby causing traffic jam on major roads in the town.
People were also subjected to serious screening before being allowed into public premises in the troubled town.
It was however gathered that the security threat might not be unconnected with suspected infiltration of the internally displaced persons camp in the town by Boko Haram insurgents.
A member of the youth vigilante group, who spoke to our correspondent under condition of anonymity said, “It is believed that insurgents followed the IDPs into town. They ( insurgents) even slaughtered two people in one of the camps and they have been going about wreaking havoc in some parts of the state.”