An attack blamed on Boko Haram killed 21 people in the key northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Sunday, a top emergency services official said, as further suicide bombings rocked the restive area on Monday.
Sunday’s attack was part of a wider assault on Maiduguri, the capital of northeastern Borno state, just days before Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s self-imposed deadline to eradicate the militants expires on December 31.
Mohammed Kanar, head of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the region, told AFP that 21 people had died and 91 were injured when jihadists stormed Jiddari Polo, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, at around 6:30 pm (1730 GMT), shooting guns and unleashing waves of young suicide bombers.
Further attacks rocked the city on Monday, leaving at least one person dead.
“The suicide attacks were carried out by young suicide bombers who managed to make their way into the city during the gun battle between soldiers and Boko Haram gunmen last night.”
Among the victims was the family of a local chief in Dawari village near Jiddari Polo who were killed by a rocket-propelled grenade understood to have been fired by Boko Haram fighters.
Boko Haram Islamists have made several attempts to retake Maiduguri —- the birthplace of the jihadist movement -— since they were pushed out three years ago.
Nigerian troops have won back territory from Boko Haram, but the latest attacks have called into question Buhari’s recent claim that Nigeria has “technically” won the war against the jihadist group.
In another recent attack, Boko Haram fighters invaded Kimba village in Borno state on Christmas Day evening, killing at least 14 residents and torching their homes.
“Boko Haram is still extremely dangerous, and it’s gaining resources, notoriety, credibility and successfully expanding its reach,” said Yan St-Pierre, terrorism analyst at Berlin-based Modern Security Consulting Group to AFP.
“To be defeated, Boko Haram must no longer be in a position to kill and inspire people, and right now it can still easily do both.”
The insurgents have also carried out deadly cross-border raids in neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger, fuelling fears that the hardline Muslim movement is growing into a regional jihadist threat.