ABUJA (Reuters) – An explosion killed at least three people outside an army barracks in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Gombe on Sunday, witnesses said, as local leaders reported the death count from a string of earlier attacks had reached 110.
No one claimed responsibility for the blast or last week’s assaults but Islamist group Boko Haram has set off explosives and killed thousands in its five-year-old bid to carve out an Islamist state in the northeast.
“I heard a loud sound and then black smoke covering the place … We saw soldiers moving bodies,” Gombe trader Bello Kasuwankatako told Reuters.
Boko Haram – which dominated world headlines by kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls in April – has fought back against an army offensive, piling political pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan and the military to end the carnage. Leaders from Gombe’s neighbouring state of Borno told journalists on Sunday they had now buried 110 bodies from a string of attacks on nine villages early last week – giving the first detailed breakdown on the casualties.
“It was a great tragedy. There are still corpses lying in the bushes surrounding the communities. Many of our people that fled to the top of the hills during and after the attacks are still there and now stranded,” said Ali Ndume, a senator representing southern Borno.
Boko Haram started off focusing on military and government targets alongside schools – seen as representing corrupt Western influence – churches, and Muslim leaders who do not follow its brand of Islam, modelled on the Afghan Taliban.
It has been increasingly turning its guns on civilians in recent months, particularly after locals started setting up vigilante groups to try and fight back.