DAMATURU (AFP) – A member of Boko Haram sect on Saturday claimed responsibility for a wave of attacks that killed at least 63 people in the northeast of the country the day before.
“We are responsible for the attack in Borno (state) and Damaturu,” Abul Qaqa told an AFP correspondent by phone.
“We will continue attacking federal government formations until security forces stop persecuting our members and vulnerable civilians,” Qaqa vowed.
The Friday bomb and gun attacks, including two suicide blasts, targeted police stations, an army base and churches in the cities of Damaturu, Maiduguri and two other small towns.
“Sixty-three people (are) confirmed dead” in Damaturu, a Red Cross official who asked not to be named said.
A lawyer who visited Damaturu’s government hospital Saturday looking for a missing friend said he counted 60 bodies in the morgue, “all brought in yesterday from the attacks.”
The lawyer, who asked not to be named, told AFP he found the friend, a policeman, among the corpses.
He said anxious relatives were flocking to the hospital in search of loved ones.
An AFP reporter who also visited the morgue said most of the dead appeared to be policemen.
The attackers bombed their targets then took on the security forces in gun battles. Residents said gunfire rang for several hours across the city after the explosions.
In a mainly Christian neighbourhood of Damaturu called Jerusalem, six churches were bombed in addition to a police station.
“It was a suicide bomb attack at one of our buildings. The attacker came in a Honda CRV and rammed into the building and explosives exploded,” Suleimon Lawal, police chief for Yobe state, whose capital is Damaturu, told AFP.
He did not specify the building affected, but an AFP correspondent in the city said a double-storey complex housing the police anti-terrorism unit was hit by a suicide bomber, as well as the police heaquarters.
Another suicide attack damaged a military base in Maiduguri on Friday.
The journalist described scenes of chaos and destruction in Damaturu.
“In fact, Damaturu is looking just like Libya … burnt cars and buildings,” said the reporter.
“A police station and a mechanical workshop of the police were attacked. Six churches in the area were also bombed,” said resident Edwin Silas, adding: “The whole city is traumatised.”
Adamu Mohammed, a mason working at the police headquarters in Damaturu at the time of the attack said he saw the bodies of five policemen as he made good his escape after the bomb went off.
The string of attacks came two days ahead of the annual Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice.
Police have been placed on red alert nationwide.
Militants from Boko Haram, whose name means “Western Education Is Sin” in the regional Hausa language, have in the past targeted police and military, community and religious leaders, as well as politicians.
The sect, which wants to see the establishment of an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, staged an uprising which was brutally put down by security forces in 2009.