At least 31 people were killed in a double bombing in the Nigerian city of Jos on Thursday, while a 13-year-old girl in an explosives vest was arrested in the northern city of Kano.
The blasts in Jos happened at a makeshift market near the Terminus bus station, which had been set up after a twin car bomb attack in May that left at least 118 people dead.
Mohammed Abdulsalam, coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the city, said the scene of the attack was a densely populated area.
“The bodies recovered so far are 31 but rescue workers are at the scene and the figures may change,” added Pam Ayuba, spokesman for the Plateau state governor Jonah Jang.
The city, which is the capital of Plateau, lies in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” where the mainly Muslim north meets the mostly Christian south.
It has been targeted by Boko Haram Islamists in the past but is also a hotbed of ethnic and sectarian tensions that frequently boil over into deadly violence.
– ‘Would-be bomber’ –
In Kano, a senior security source and a nurse said a 13-year-old was arrested on Wednesday after she and a male accomplice walked into a clinic seeking medical treatment.
The location of the clinic — some 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) from the scene of a double suicide attack by two women on a textile market just hours earlier — raised suspicions.
“We alerted the police who immediately mobilised and arrested the duo,” said one nurse, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.
“On searching her, the police discovered explosives hidden under her hijab, confirming our suspicion. They took her and the man accompanying her away.”
The senior security source said the young girl was from the northeastern state of Bauchi and had been part of the “suicide team” that attacked the busy Kantin Kwari textile bazaar.
Four people were killed in that attack and seven others injured.
“Her arrest is a huge breakthrough in unravelling the spate of suicide attacks by young girls in the city,” the source added.
Boko Haram has increasingly used women as suicide bombers in attacks ranging from Borno state in the far northeast to Niger to the northwest.
Just last month, at least 120 people were killed when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at Kano’s central mosque and gunmen opened fire on worshippers as they fled.
Security analysts have seen the use of women — whether voluntarily and ideologically motivated or coerced — as a sign that Boko Haram wants to sow fear and terror further afield.
In July, a 10-year-old girl was discovered wearing a suicide vest in Katsina state, also in the north.
President Goodluck Jonathan, accepting his party’s nomination to run for re-election on Wednesday night, said the military was making some gains in the fight against the militants.
The military has reported the seizure of several towns captured in recent months and also successful operations that have left dozens of Islamist fighters dead.
But in a sign of the scale of the task — and the need to provide better security everywhere in the remote region — a local government official said 11 people were killed by gunmen in the town of Gajiganna in Borno state.
“The terrorists also injured (several) people and set on fire every single house in the village,” said Zarami Kolo.
Gajiganna has large markets that attract traders from across Borno state as well as from neighbouring Chad and Cameroon.