KANO (AFP) – Suspected Nigerian Islamists Boko Haram opened fire and set off bombs at a market in Maiduguri on Monday, killing at least 30 people, a medic and a witness said.
Gunmen believed to be members of the Islamist sect Boko Haram stormed the Baga market and opened fire indiscriminately, traders said, reporting that women and children were among the dead.
“The number of dead could not be less than 30,” a Maiduguri hospital nurse told AFP.
The military confirmed the assault on the market but denied any civilian deaths, saying security forces had killed eight assailants and safely detonated bombs planted by the attackers.
“At about 1:30 (1230 GMT) this afternoon at Baga market of Maiduguri metropolis some gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram attacked and shot civilians at the market,” Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, spokesman of a special military unit in the city, told AFP.
He said several people had been wounded but that there was “no civilian death at this time”.
The military “immediately came to the rescue of the situation and safely detonated three bombs planted by members of the sect and shot and killed eight members of the sect.”
However, one trader who have his name as Mairami said six gunmen stormed the food and commodities market and “opened fire indiscriminately. At least 30 people including women and children were killed.”
Another vendor by the name Gana gave a similar account of the attack in the city, Boko Haram’s stronghold.
“The gunmen just opened fire killing people. I saw three military vans piled with bodies leaving the market. There were several explosions after the shooting,” Gana said.
The attackers had accused traders of collaborating with the military following the arrest last week of a suspected Boko Haram member in the market, witnesses said.
Mairami said one gunman shouted angrily that traders had “teamed up with soldiers” to help arrest members of the sect, which has been blamed for a wave of deadly attacks in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria.
“‘We have henceforth waged war against you’,” Mairami said the gunman had declared, before spraying bullets on both vendors and customers.
Last week, traders overpowered a gunmen suspected to be a Boko Haram member and handed him over to the military.