Today, a young female suicide bomber set off an explosion in Potiskum in Nigeria’s northeastern Yobe State. The bombing, which killed at least 15 people while wounding 53 others, occurred at a crowded bus station. The teenager was seen arriving in a rickshaw at the Tashan Dan Borno bus station; she detonated the bomb as she tried to board a bus. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but Boko Haram has conducted a number of similar attacks against civilians throughout the region in recent months.
Today’s bombing follows closely after another bombing that occurred over the weekend in Potiskum. On Sunday, a young girl blew herself up in a busy market, killing herself and four other people. An additional 46 people were wounded in the attack. Reports indicate that the girl, who appeared to be no older than 10, attempted to enter the market several times. She was refused entrance by security guards and vigilantes. A local vigilante leader, Buba Lawan, told AFP “We sent her back four times, because given her age, she did not have anything to do in the market … When we were screening people, she bent and tried to pass under the ropes, some distance from our view. That was when the explosives went off.” Lawan went on to say, “we have barred women from entering the market to prevent further attacks” since it has been previously targeted by female suicide bombers.
Potiskum has endured several suicide attacks. In November 2014, a suicide bomber disguised as a student with an explosive device hidden in his bag set off an explosion at a school assembly of the Government Science Secondary school, killing over 45 people. In January 2015, two female suicide bombers detonated explosive devices near the same recently targeted market. One of the bombers was reportedly a teenage girl. A week later, a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a Potiskum bus station. On February 17, a suicide bomber killed four people and injured several others when he detonated an explosive device near a Potiskum military checkpoint.
Beyond repeatedly targeting Potiskum, Boko Haram has a pattern of using children in their operations. The group sent a young girl strapped with an explosive device into a busy market in the Borno State capital of Maiduguri in January 2015, killing 20 people. Additionally, a young girl reportedly blew herself up in the middle of a pepper market in Diffa, Niger earlier this month.
Over the weekend, Nigerian forces claimed to have retaken Baga along Lake Chad. The town and the surrounding area were overrun and taken over by Boko Haram in the first week of 2015. During its initial attack, Boko Haram also took control of the nearby Multinational Joint Task Force Base.
Nigeria’s Defense Headquarters tweeted on Saturday “Troops have this afternoon captured #BAGA after fierce battle with terrorists. Heavy Casualties. Mopping up ongoing.” The country’s defense ministry spokesman noted that soldiers had advanced on booby-trapped roads and they had disassembled some 1,500 land mines.
Boko Haram contradicted government claims through its media division, the al-Urqa al-Wuthqa Foundation, tweeting in English, “Baga’ still is under the contol of the Mujahedeen and any claim by the regime they they took the city is their usual lie.” The same message was tweeted by the group in French and Arabic. News outlets Al Jazeera and AP both noted that they were unable to verify the government’s report.