Two suicide attacks in northeast Nigeria have killed at least 38 people, less than six weeks from elections, as the leader of Boko Haram vowed to disrupt the vote. The Islamist insurgency has already forced a delay in the polls, initially scheduled for February 14, and officials had voiced hope that a regional military offensive could contain the bloodshed before the new election day, March 28.But the latest wave of attacks blamed on the rebels underscored the challenge facing Nigeria and its neighbours – Cameroon, Chad and Niger – despite claims of successes in the joint operation launched this month.
“This election will not be held even if we are dead,” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a new video, in what appeared to the first from the group released on Twitter. Speaking before Shekau’s threat, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou vowed that his country would herald the end for the rebels, whose six-year insurgency has killed more than 13,000 people.
“Niger will be the death of Boko Haram,” he told a cheering crowd after a protest against the insurgents in the capital Niamey. But Boko Haram has proved resilient an experts question whether the group can be overpowered in the short-term. In Nigeria’s Borno state, three assailants in a motorised rickshaw detonated explosives at a checkpoint at Yamarkumi village, near the town of Biu, at about 1:00 pm (1730 IST).
The suicide attack killed 36 people and injured 20, a source at the Biu General Hospital told AFP, requesting anonymity. “Most of the victims were child vendors and beggars that usually crowd the checkpoint,” the source added.
Boko Haram has repeatedly tried to seize Biu, 180 kilometres from the state capital Maiduguri, but has been repelled by troops and local vigilantes.
Some four hours later, in Potiskum, the economic capital of neighbouring Yobe state, a bomber blew himself up inside Al-Amir restaurant, a popular chain in northern Nigeria. The restaurant manager and a steward were killed, while 13 staff and customers were seriously injured, a police officer and nurse the Potiskum