DAMATURU/KANO, NIGERIA – Suicide bombers struck two bus stations in different parts of northern Nigeria on Tuesday, killing at least 26 people and wounding scores in what bore the hallmarks of revenge attacks by embattled Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
In the first one, a suicide bomber rushed onto a bus in the northeastern town of Potiskum before setting off a blast that destroyed the bus and killed 16 people, according to security and hospital sources.
A police spokesman for Yobe state, Gbadegesin Toyin, said the bomber was a man, but that some witnesses had mistakenly said it was a teenage girl who was in fact one of the victims.
On Sunday, a girl with explosives strapped to her killed five people and wounded dozens outside a market in Potiskum.
In the second attack, two suicide bombers launched a coordinated strike on a major bus station in the north’s main city of Kano, killing at least 10 people, police spokesman Ibrahim Idris said.
No one claimed responsibility for either bombing but the main suspect is likely to be Boko Haram, whose struggle for an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria has killed thousands of people and displaced over a million.
The use of suicide bombers has become a common tactic of Boko Haram since last year as the group expanded territory and became stronger and more deadly. But in the past three weeks it has begun to suffer a string of defeats in a military offensive by Nigeria and neighbors Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
Last Saturday, Nigerian troops backed by airstrikes seized the northeastern border town of Baga from Boko Haram, the military said, a significant victory in the offensive.
But failure to protect civilians is a major criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration ahead of an election scheduled for March 28.
Yobe state and Kano have both seen many Boko Haram attacks but have never been taken over by the militants the way northeastern Borno state has and are hundreds of miles from the main theater of the war against the insurgents.
On Monday, defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade said airstrikes were underway on Boko Haram targets in the Borno state towns of Gwoza, where the group first declared an Islamic state, Bama and Sambisa.
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