Suspected Islamist insurgents pounded the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri with rocket-propelled grenades late on Tuesday, killing at least ten people and injuring dozens, officials, security forces and residents said.
It was the worst attack for a year on Maiduguri, the government’s stronghold in the northeast and the heart of its conflict with Boko Haram jihadists in a shattering, decade-long war.
It came less than a month after President Muhammadu Buhari replaced his long-standing military chiefs amid worsening militant violence, with the armed forces fighting to reclaim other northeastern towns overrun by insurgents.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the latest attack. Nigeria’s northeast is the hotbed of two Islamist insurgencies: Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West African branch, which split from the former group in 2016.
“It is a very sad moment for the people and government of Borno state. About 60 persons were affected, among them, ten have died,” said Babagana Zulum, the governor of Borno, of which Maiduguri is the capital.
All of those killed were civilians, according to hospital and security officials.
Airborne explosives began to rain down near the University of Maiduguri in the city’s east around 6 pm on Tuesday, said a Reuters witness, a resident and security officials. Blasts soon rocked other parts of eastern and northeastern Maiduguri.
Insurgents were launching rocket-propelled grenades into Maiduguri from a distance, said Borno’s governor and security officials. One of the projectiles hit a children’s playground, Zulum said, without saying whether anyone was injured.
“An explosion killed four people near my house,” said one resident, Ali Ciroma. A policeman and two security officials confirmed the deaths.
Security forces were soon rushing corpses and the wounded into a nearby hospital’s emergency unit, according to a Reuters witness who counted 22 injured at that ward.
Three security officials said the death toll could be higher than ten, with one saying as many as 17 people were killed.
Sounds of gunfire and explosions died down around 7:30 pm as the military fought off the attackers.