A terror attack in northeast Nigeria has left more than 30 dead and scores injured despite ongoing military efforts to restore peace in the region.
Twin suicide bombs went off during a celebration for the end of Ramadan over the weekend, and were reportedly followed by artillery strikes by the nation’s military.
The government has blamed six suicide bombers from the terror group Boko Haram for the attack Saturday in Damboa, in the state of Borno.
In addition to the dozens reported to have died, the injured included 11 severely wounded people who were evacuated from the area by the International Committee for the Red Cross, the humanitarian organization told ABC News.
An international observer told ABC News that the bombing shows Nigeria is not defeating Boko Haram, as the government has claimed.
“This horrific attack demonstrates that Boko Haram is not on the verge of defeat, as the Nigerian government has repeatedly claimed,” Matthew T. Page, an associate fellow with the Africa Programme at Chatham House, said in an email.
“Characterized by tactical missteps, corruption, and gross human rights violations, Nigerian counterterrorism efforts have failed to address the root causes of the insurgency,” Page said. “Until that changes, Boko Haram will remain resilient enough to conduct mass casualty attacks like the Damboa bombing.”
Some witnesses to the Saturday attack told multiple local media outlets that the military airstrikes may have hit as many or more people than the bombs.
A local person who did not want to be named told Sahara Reporters that “many civilians were hit” when the military fired in retaliation.
Borno state is one of the worst-affected areas in conflict-ridden Nigeria. The United Nations says Damboa alone in Borno state currently hosts over 90,000 internally displaced people, many of whom live in refugee camps.
“The humanitarian crisis in Nigeria’s northeast that has spilled over into the Lake Chad region is one of the most severe in the world today, with 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2018 in the worst-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, and 6.1 million targeted for humanitarian assistance,” the United Nations said in a statement to ABC News.
The U.N. says Damboa alone in Borno state currently hosts over 90,000 internally displaced people, many of whom live in refugee camps.
A military operation was launched May 1 to try and expel militants from Borno state. Then, hours after an army spokesman urged people to return to the area, saying it was “safe,” this latest bombing happened.
Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has been a target of terror attacks for many years. Boko Haram is one of the largest Islamist militant groups in Africa, with links to several other Islamist groups, including ISIS.
In March 2015, ISIS accepted a pledge of allegiance by Boko Haram and in August 2016, the group split into two factions: The Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and JASDJ or Boko Haram.
Following Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS, the United States announced it would boost its military assistance to Nigeria.
“In addition to being the largest African oil producer, Nigeria’s economy is very dependent on its oil revenue, its stability is vital to regional security and U.S. economic interests,” according to a statement by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, whose won in part due to his vow to crush Boko Haram, will likely face scrutiny in the next elections in February 2019 over his ability to address security threats in the country.
The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate condemned the attack in Damboa by “suspected Boko Haram insurgents targeting Eid al-Fitr celebrations,” and sent “condolences to the affected families, government and people of Nigeria.”