Bomb blast and deadly unrest rock Maiduguri
Nigeria's northwest city of Maiduguri was rocked by a bomb attack targeting soldiers Tuesday, with at least 10 killed in the following unrest. Residents also reported that soldiers set fire to homes, claims the military has denied.
AFP - A powerful bomb blast targeting soldiers followed by gunfire rocked the troubled Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Tuesday, with at least 10 people killed, an official and a hospital source said.
Residents claimed soldiers reacted to the bombing by shooting indiscriminately and burning homes, with troops having been accused of such abuses following previous attacks after alleging residents were complicit.
A military spokesman denied the accusations.
The violence began when two men in a sedan drove towards a military post and sought to throw a bomb at soldiers in the restive city, which has been the epicentre of violence blamed on the Islamist sect known as Boko Haram.
Military roadblocks and outposts have frequently been targeted by the extremists in Maiduguri, located in northeastern Nigeria.
"The explosive device detonated in his hands, killing him on the spot, while his comrade fled, abandoning the car," said Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, spokesman for a military task force in Maiduguri.
"We discovered ammunition in the car. No other life was lost and nobody was injured in the attack."
Residents said the blast was followed by sporadic gunfire. They alleged soldiers then stormed through the neighbourhood, firing their weapons and setting houses on fire.
"After the blast, everybody moved indoors, but later I began hearing screams and commotion and saw billows of smoke covering the sky," one resident said.
"I realised soldiers were moving door-to-door setting houses on fire. I scaled over the fence of my house and ran out of the area barefoot while soldiers set fire to my house."
Another resident also alleged soldiers were carrying out the abuses and said people had fled the area. A hospital nurse said at least 10 people were killed in the day's violence.
"So far we have received 10 dead bodies... and 30 others injured, some critically, and from the state of some of the injured, the death toll may rise," the nurse told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"Some of the bodies brought to the hospital have gunshot wounds while others have burns."
Mohammed, the military spokesman, said "nobody was shot and no homes were burnt by soldiers."
The military has come under harsh criticism over its actions in Maiduguri, with some local leaders calling for the task force operating there to be withdrawn.
Thousands of people have fled Maiduguri out of fears of further violence.
Boko Haram has been blamed for scores of attacks, mostly in northeastern Nigeria, though the group also claimed responsibility for the August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in the capital Abuja that killed at least 24 people.
There has been intense speculation over whether the group has formed links with outside extremists, including Al-Qaeda's north African branch. It is believed to have a number of factions with varying aims.
It launched an uprising in 2009 put down by a brutal military assault which left some 800 dead, then went dormant for about a year before emerging with a series of assassinations.
Bomb blasts have since become frequent and have grown in sophistication.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation with some 160 million people, roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
Tuesday's blast occurred ahead of President Goodluck Jonathan's presentation of his 2012 budget before parliament in Abuja, but it was unclear if there was any link.