A teenage suicide bomber has attacked worshippers as they gathered for morning prayers at a mosque in north-eastern Nigeria, killing at least 50 people, police said, in one of the region’s deadliest assaults in years. Bloody debris covered the floor inside the mosque in Mubi, in Adamawa state, where worshippers had arrived at around 5am. Outside, people gathered around the dead.
President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted that he was “saddened by the very cruel and dastardly suicide bombing attack”. “May the souls of the dead rest in peace,” he added. Police spokesman Othman Abubakar said officers were “still trying to ascertain the number of injured because they are in various hospitals”.
While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, suspicion immediately fell on the Boko Haram extremist group.
The group is based in neighbouring Borno state and has been blamed for scores of similar attacks over the years. Yesterday’s attack was the first since Mubi was liberated from Boko Haram insurgents in 2014. Boko Haram increasingly has been using teenagers or young women as bombers, many of whom have been abducted. The police spokesman said the young man detonated his explosives while mingling among the worshippers.
There was no immediate comment from Nigeria’s government or military on the attack. While Nigeria’s military in recent months has flushed Boko Haram from its forest stronghold, Mr Buhari’s claim late last year that the extremist group had been “crushed” has proven to be premature.
Boko Haram has been blamed for more than 20,000 deaths during its eight-year-old insurgency. The attacks have spilled into neighbouring countries and displaced more than 2.4 million people in the Lake Chad region, creating a vast humanitarian crisis.
The April 2014 abduction by Boko Haram of nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok brought the extremist group’s rampage in northern Nigeria to world attention and, for the families of the schoolgirls, began years marked with heartbreak.
Some relatives did not live long enough to see their daughters released. Many of the captive girls, most of them Christians, were forced to marry their captors and give birth to children in remote forest hideouts without ever knowing if they would see their parents again. It is feared that other girls were strapped with explosives and sent on missions as suicide bombers.