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At least 31 killed in Nigeria blast

June 18, 2018

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but many have blamed Islamic militant group Boko Haram. Their vicious campaign to carve out a caliphate has killed thousands and displaced millions.

A Nigerian soldier mans the gun atop an armored vehicle during military exercises.
Image: Getty Images/AFP/S. Heunis

At least 31 people have been killed after a pair of suicide bombers and volleys of rocket-propelled grenades struck the town of Damboa in northeastern Nigeria, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) from the state capital, Maiduguri.

The attacks occurred Saturday evening as people were returning home after celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but officials said it bore all the hallmarks of the militant jihadis — Boko Haram.

In a one-two punch, the militants waited for crowds to gather at the scenes of the twin suicide attacks — in which the suspected jihadis used young girls — before opening fire on the masses with rocket-propelled grenades.

Local militia leader Babakura Kolo said the attacks occurred at 10:45 p.m. local time. The rocket grenades claimed most of the casualties, according to Kolo. "No one needs to be told this is the work of Boko Haram," he said.

"It has destroyed our houses. We have also counted 31 innocent people including children and elderly killed in the attack," local resident Modu Usman, son of a community leader, told the Reuters news agency.

Hunger knocks on Nigeria's door

Boko Haram sparked international outrage in 2014 when they abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok. The UN says the group has abducted more than 1,000 children over the past five years.

No end in sight

The attack is the latest blow to President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected in 2015 vowing to eliminate the militant group. But the militants have continued to launch attacks against civilians and security forces in northeastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, said Ryan Cummings, an Africa analyst at the Signal Risk consultancy in South Africa.

"Boko Haram still maintains both the intent and operational capacity to launch mass casualty attacks in parts of northeastern Nigeria," Cummings told the Agence France-Presse, despite the government's repeated claims that the group has been severely weakened.

Cummings said the rocket attacks are particularly noteworthy because it "indicates that the sect continues to have access to military-grade weaponry."

"The Boko Haram insurgency is not showing any immediate signs of easing," he said.

The militants frequently dispatch suicide bombers — many of them young girls — to mosques, markets and displacement camps

Saturday night's attack was the worst since a similar strike on May 1 killed at least 86 people.

With elections approaching in February 2019, Buhari is under growing pressure to rein in the militants.

bik/cmk (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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