Two suicide bombs have rocked the city of Yola. Considered comparatively safe, the northeastern city appears to be the latest victim of Boko Haram's terror campaign.
Police in Nigeria confirmed on Friday that two suicide bombers killed at least 31 people and injured 38 others in a crowded market. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack had many hallmarks of Boko Haram, which has carried out several attacks in the north of the country in recent weeks.
The bombers reportedly strapped explosives to their bodies and entered Yola's Jimeta Main Market after sundown on Thursday. The event wasn't reported until the next day.
Police spokesman Othman Abubakar told AFP news agency that the two men deliberately "pretended to be fighting," hoping to attract onlookers as merchants were beginning to close their stalls at the market. The staged fight between the two men "attracted the attention of people nearby to see what was happening," he explained.
"When people had gathered they detonated their explosives. They killed a sizable number of people," Abubakar said.
Boko Haram has stepped up its attacks since President Muhammadu Buhari took office last week. He had been elected on a pledge to crack down on extremism, vowing to rid the country of "the terror" of Islamist fighters.
The city of Yola has suffered smaller attacks in the past but none in recent years. It had come to be regarded as a rather safe location for many who had been forced to flee their homes further north on account of the ongoing Boko Haram-sponsored violence. It was the first such devastating attack on the city, which had its population doubled by some 300,000 refugees.
Boko Haram's insurgency has killed at least 15,000 people in total since 2009 and has since spilled over to Nigeria's neighboring countries.
The Yola attack came just hours after eight soldiers were killed in a suspected suicide bombing at a checkpoint outside a military barracks in Maiduguri, the capital of neighboring Borno state.
Meanwhile the United Nations' top human rights official, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, denounced rights abuses committed by both Boko Haram Islamists as well as by the Nigerian military, asking the country's new president to punish all offenders.
"Civilians in northeast Nigeria have been living through horrifying acts of cruelty and violence by Boko Haram. These include wanton killings, summary executions, forced participation in military operations -- including the use of children to detonate bombs, forced labor, forced marriage and sexual violence, including rape," he said.
sbs/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)