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Death toll from market blast in Nigeria’s northeast rises to 45

africaYOLA: The death toll from a suicide bombing at a market in the northeastern Nigerian town of Yola rose to 45 yesterday, authorities said. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack but it bore the hallmarks of Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The suicide bomber struck at around 1900 GMT on Thursday in the Jimeta district of Yola, the capital of Adamawa state.

"Ten more people died this morning," police spokesman Othman Abubakar told Reuters, adding to the 35 bodies that a senior policeman, who wanted to remain anonymous, earlier said he had seen at the bomb scene. Around 40 people were wounded, said Abubakar.

Boko Haram has waged a six-year insurgency to try to set up a "caliphate" in the northeast of Africa's biggest oil exporting country, but government counter-offensives this year have retaken much of the territory held by the jihadists. But bomb attacks have resurged since the inauguration of newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari last week, with 80 people killed in a series of attacks over the past few days.

In his inaugural speech, Buhari - a Muslim - promised to eradicate the "mindless, godless" group and rescue hundreds of women and children held captive by the jihadists, including 200 girls taken from the town of Chibok a year ago. Buhari visited his counterparts in Niger and Chad earlier this week to discuss strategies against Boko Haram.

The insurgents controlled territory around the size of Belgium at the start of the year, but Nigeria's military, aided by forces from neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon, says it has since pushed Boko Haram back to the remote Sambisa forest. Boko Haram denied any such battlefield reverses in a video aired on social media on Tuesday.

A new video released by the group-its first for several months and first under the banner of the "Islamic State in West Africa"-insisted the rebels were still to be reckoned with.

Fake fight
Yola had been seen as a relative safe haven in Nigeria's embattled northeast, with no confirmed Islamist attacks in several years. With explosives strapped to their bodies, the bombers entered the Jimeta Main Market after sundown on Thursday and "pretended to be fighting", said area police spokesman Othman Abubakar.

The staged fight between the two men "attracted the attention of people nearby to see what was happening," he told AFP. "When people had gathered, they detonated their explosives." The coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency in Yola, Sa'ad Bello, gave casualty figures of 31 dead and 38 injured.

No group claimed responsibility but the blast bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, who have frequently targeted crowded markets. The Maiduguri explosion outside the Maimalari Barracks at about 5:00 pm killed four people and also resembled past strikes by the insurgents, who have made suicide attacks against the military a key feature of their uprising.

Separately, a military statement said troops had repelled attack by "a band of terrorists" and killed several late Thursday in the Borno village of Shetimari, roughly 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of the city, providing no further specifics.

Regional cooperation
Buhari was in Chad's capital N'Djamena on Thursday for talks with his counterpart Idriss Deby after visiting Niger on Wednesday. "Your troops have stood shoulder to shoulder and fought gallantly with ours in the fight against the forces of evil," the 72-year-old former military ruler told Deby.

For his part, Deby "reaffirmed Chad's involvement and availability" to work with Nigeria. Anglophone Nigeria has typically viewed its Francophone neighbours with suspicion, which has been blamed for the lack of a joined-up approach in tackling the militants.

The head of the Africa Programme at the London-based think-tank Chatham House, Alex Vines, said the trip underscored that Buhari "needs to make quick progress on Boko Haram... and needs the support of Chad and Niger". If Nigeria's president meets early setbacks against the insurgents, it could undermine his ability to push through "tricky reforms", including expected anti-corruption measures, he added. - Agencies

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This article was published on 05/06/2015