KANO: Two blasts rocked bus stations in embattled northern Nigeria on Tuesday, killing at least 27 people, as violence continues to rage less than five weeks ahead of general elections.
The first bombing, which killed 17, ripped through a station on the outskirts of Potiskum, in northeast Yobe state, which has been targeted repeatedly by Boko Haram Islamists.
Roughly four hours later, two men blew themselves up after getting off a bus at a busy terminus in Kano, the north’s largest city and another frequent Boko Haram target. Ten people were killed.
Despite the attacks, President Goodluck Jonathan said late Tuesday that the military had the insurgents on the back foot.
“The president assures all Nigerians, and the people of the northeastern states in particular, that the days of mourning victims of incessant terrorist attacks in the country will soon be over as the tide has now definitely turned against Boko Haram,” his office said in an emailed statement.
The Nigerian militant group, blamed for more than 13,000 deaths since 2009, has in recent weeks expanded its uprising into neighbouring countries, raising fears of a regional crisis.
In neighbouring Niger on Tuesday, a mine planted by the insurgents killed two soldiers and injured four others in the Diffa region bordering Yobe, a security source said.
Niger this month joined Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria in a joint operation aimed at crushing Boko Haram’s uprising.
The rebels responded by launching cross-border raids inside Niger and Chad. They have also repeatedly targeted northern Cameroon.
Niger’s government announced Tuesday that it was extending a state of emergency imposed on the Diffa region in mid-February over the threat from the insurgents.
The government did not say how long the measure, which gives the security forces more powers to hunt suspected Boko Haram members, would remain in place.
Nigeria had hoped the four-nation offensive could contain the violence before elections initially scheduled for February 14 but which were postponed by six weeks because of the insurgency.
But with the bloodshed continuing on a near daily basis, security fears remain high ahead of the March 28 vote.
The Potiskum explosion took place a station on the outskirts of the city, after a man put a bag in the hold of the bus and then tried to board.
“The bus had just loaded with passengers on its way to Kano when a huge explosion happened inside the bus at exactly 11:40 am (1040 GMT),” said a driver’s union official at the bus station.
Potiskum was also attacked on Sunday, when a young girl detonated explosives strapped to her body at a crowded market.
Thirteen dead and 31 injured were initially brought to Potiskum General Hospital after Tuesday’s blast, according to a nurse at the facility.
“Four more died here,” she said giving a toll of 17 dead and 27 injured.
The drivers’ union official said it was not immediately clear whether the man who placed the bag in the boot was a suicide bomber, or whether the explosives were hidden inside it.
Rescue workers at the scene said that all 12 people on board the bus were killed.
Boko Haram has increasingly used young girls and women as human bombs at so-called “soft targets” such as markets and bus stations.
The girl in Sunday’s attack which left seven people dead in Potiskum was thought by witnesses to be as young as seven.
The explosion in Kano occurred at about 3:40 pm (1540 GMT) and sent people rushing from the site of the blast, many of them covered in blood.
“I was attending to customers when I heard a loud explosion that shook the building,” said one local shopkeeper, who works opposite the terminus.
“People and buses were rushing out of the bus station. One bus was splattered with blood and human flesh.”
Kano state police spokesman Musa Magaji Majia described the attack as “suicide explosions” by two men who arrived off a bus from Wudil, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) away.
He said ten people were killed and several wounded.
Both bombings underlined the severe security challenges confronting Nigeria in the run-up to the elections.