MAIDUGURI (AFP) – A suicide blast targeting a military vehicle in restive northeast has killed one civilian and wounded six soldiers, while gunfire rang out for hours, residents and a military source said Friday.
Residents in Maiduguri, where the blast went off late Thursday, however said the civilian was killed by troops who began firing their weapons indiscriminately and burning shops after the explosion.
The military denied the accusation that any non-combatants were targeted in the city’s Gamboru area where the unrest occurred.
Maiduguri is considered the home base of Islamist group Boko Haram, who have killed hundreds in the region since 2009 in an insurgency they say is aimed at creating an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.
“A suicide bomber detonated an (improvised explosive device)… as a military patrol vehicle was passing, wounding six soldiers and killing a civilian,” said a senior officer, who requested anonymity.
According to several residents, the sounds of gunfire and explosions rang through Maiduguri through much of the night.
“Soldiers ran berserk and went on a shooting spree, killing a civilian that was hit by a stray bullet,” said one Gamboru resident.
Another source who lives in the same area said troops “ran wild and kept firing in all directions and burning shops.”
The police spokesman in the area, Gideon Jurbil, said only that there was an “exchange of gunfire” in parts of Maiduguri late Thursday during which suspected extremists were killed, but provided no figures or details.
The military source denied reports of running violence through the night.
Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Nigeria’s security forces of massive atrocities, including summary executions, during operations targeting Boko Haram.
The group’s insurgency is believed to have left 3,000 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.
The French government has said Boko Haram was likely to blame for the kidnapping of seven French family members, including four children, from Cameroon on Tuesday near the Nigerian border.
Nigeria has said it has launched a “massive manhunt” for the hostages, but there was no sign of a link between the latest unrest in Maiduguri and the abductions.