Three bombings, including one by a female suicide attacker, killed at least 58 people and wounded 139 others in northeast Nigeria on Saturday, in the latest violence blamed on Boko Haram.
Many children were among the dead in the explosions that hit two crowded markets and a busy bus station in Maiduguri, the region’s largest city and capital of the embattled Borno state.
The Nigerian Islamist militants have relentlessly attacked Maiduguri throughout their six-year uprising, which has cost more than 13,000 lives and security forces in the city have struggled to contain the bloodshed.
Nigeria has since last month claimed key victories over Boko Haram in an offensive being waged in cooperation with forces from neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Several towns and villages in the northeast previously captured by the insurgents have reportedly been taken back by government troops and experts have said that in response Boko Haram was likely to increase attacks on civilian targets in major cities.
A woman with explosives strapped to her body blew herself up at roughly 11:20 am (1020 GMT) when she got out of a motorised rickshaw at Maiduguri’s Baga fish market, said the head of the fisherman’s union, Abubakar Gamandi, who was at the scene.
“The bomb was devastating because it occurred at a crowded area,” said Jamuna Jarmi, a grocery seller.
Boko Haram has deployed women and even girls as young as seven as human bombs in attacks across northern Nigeria in recent months, prompting global condemnation, including from other jihadist groups.
About an hour later another blast rocked the popular Monday Market, causing chaos as locals voiced anger at security forces who struggled to control the scene.
Just after 1:00 pm a third blast hit a used car lot which is attached to the busy Borno Express bus terminal.
There were indications that the second and thirds blasts were also carried out by suicide bombers but details were not immediately clear.
Borno’s police commissioner Clement Adoda gave a toll of 58 dead “for the three locations” and 139 wounded.
“Normalcy has been restored,” he added, declining to give further details.
Gamandi, who was supporting rescue workers at Maiduguri General Hospital, told AFP that “the dead include women and children” but said most of the victims were men.