- Category: Newsflash
- Published on Saturday, 05 November 2011 11:49
- Written by Elombah.com
[elombah.com] Update: A member of Boko Haram sect on Saturday claimed responsibility for a wave of attacks that killed at least 63 people in the northeast of the country the day before. “We are responsible for the attack in Borno (state) and Damaturu,” Abul Qaqa told an AFP correspondent by phone. “We will continue attacking federal government formations until security forces stop persecuting our members and vulnerable civilians,” Qaqa vowed -
Latest reports put death toll at 90 in a series of bomb attacks in the north-eastern Nigerian city of Damaturu, BBC reports, monitored by elombah.com say. Witnesses said the bombs hit several targets, including churches and the headquarters of the Yobe state police. The BBC's Jonah Fisher, in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, says gunfire lasted into the night and residents were said to be fleeing.
It follows attacks on security forces in the nearby city of Maiduguri blamed on the Islamist Boko Haram group.
A lawyer who visited Damaturu's government hospital Saturday looking for a missing friend said he counted 60 bodies in the morgue.
"I have seen 60 dead bodies in the hospital, all brought in yesterday from the attacks," the lawyer, who asked not be named, told AFP by telephone.
"I am here to look for my friend who didn't return home yesterday."
He said anxious relatives were flocking to the hospital in search of loved ones.
An unnamed local government official in Damaturu was quoted by AFP news agency as saying that hundreds of wounded people were being treated in the hospital.
The state police commissioner said the attacks caught the town by surprise and he was still trying to establish the number of casualties, our correspondent reports.
Witnesses said the attacks began on Friday at about 18:30 (17:30 GMT) and lasted for about 90 minutes. Gunmen then engaged in running battles with security forces.
A Roman Catholic parish priest told our correspondent his church had been burnt down and eight other churches also attacked.
The attacks followed a triple suicide bomb attack on a military headquarters in Maiduguri, in neighbouring Borno state.
Military officials said the three attackers had died.
A senior local government official in the city, who said he did not have permission to speak to the media, told AFP that the hospital was full to the brim with the injured following Friday's attacks.
"The general hospital is full with people who were injured in the attack. If I say there are hundreds injured, it's not an over-estimation. Everywhere is full with the injured," he said, without giving a death toll.
The authorities were not immediately available for comment.
Gunmen bombed police posts and churches in the city before engaging in gun battles with security forces, hours after a lunchtime suicide attack targeted an army base in the city of Maiduguri, also in the northeast.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but residents of Damaturu suspect the Islamist sect Boko Haram, which is based in Maiduguri.
The police headquarters in Damaturu, just west of Maiduguri, appeared to have been one of the first and main targets of the attacks.
A mason working there at the time of the attack said he saw bodies of five policemen as he made good his escape after the bomb went off.
"I was plastering a building in the police headquarters when I heard a loud blast. I was thrown to the ground, and the window I had just fixed was blown up from the impact of the blast. I believe I saw five dead men. ... They were men in police uniform," Adamu Mohammed said.
He said he saw several others injured as he scaled a fence to flee the scene.
Nigeria's north is predominantly Muslim, with pockets of Christian communities.
In a mainly Christian neighbourhood called Jerusalem, six churches were bombed in addition to a police station.
"A police station and a mechanical workshop of the police were attacked. Six churches in the area were also bombed," said resident Edwin Silas, adding: "The whole city is traumatised."
Soldiers and police have mounted checkpoints in parts of the city, searching vehicles and carrying out pat-downs of drivers and passengers.
In the town of Potiskum, a grenade narrowly missed a police station and an ensuing gun battle left one policeman dead.
The string of attacks came two days ahead of the annual Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, and police have been put on red alert nationwide.
That attack is believed to be the work of Boko Haram, which has launched frequent attacks on the police and government officials.
The name means "Western education is forbidden" in the regional Hausa language, have targeted police and military, community and religious leaders, as well as politicians, in scores of attacks in recent months.
The sect, which wants to see the strict application of Sharia or Islamic law, staged an uprising which was brutally put down by security forces in 2009.
It claimed responsibility for the August 26 bombing of the UN headquarters in the capital Abuja which killed 24 people, as well as a June attack on the national police heaquarters, also in the capital.