ABUJA - Suspected Islamic extremists attacked two northeastern Nigerian state capitals Monday, targeting a police facility and a crowded market.
Early Monday, insurgents entered the Yobe state capital of Damaturu, attacking a police station and sending university students fleeing their campus to hide in the bush.
Later, in Maiduguri, the capital of neighboring Borno state, two explosions tore through a market where two female suicide bombers killed dozens of people a week ago.
While no group has taken responsibility, Nigeria Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade said the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram is likely behind the attacks.
It was not immediately clear how many people were killed or wounded. Witnesses said they saw people dripping with blood and missing limbs.
According to a report by French news agency AFP, at least 10 people were killed in Monday's explosions. The suicide bombers were said to be two women.
Earlier in the day, residents of Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, said suspected Boko Haram militants attacked a police facility in the city.
Residents, including Yobe State University students, fled to hide in the bush.
VOA Hausa service spoke with a television reporter hiding in the bush who said the gunmen reached the city center.
Abdullahi Bego, a Yobe state government spokesman, said of the attack in Damaturu: “What we know is that they came into town early in the morning around 6:30 a.m. local. And they came through, from the southern part of the city, from Gujuba, a town some kilometers away from Damaturu.
“They came into town and they started attacking. But the security forces on the ground were on alert and they did a very excellent job at repelling them,” Bego said.
Air force is used
Olukolade said that troops, backed by the air force, were fighting off the militants in Damaturu.
Witnesses told Reuters that insurgents shot at an air force jet that was circling their forces and dropping bombs.
Bego said security forces are searching for insurgents hiding in the city.
“As I speak to you right now, the town of Damaturu remains in government control, the security forces have repelled the attack and forced the insurgents to flee. And those who were reported to be hiding in town are now being trailed by the security agents,” Bego said.
He added that security reinforcements were being sent from neighboring town, such as Maiduguri and Bauchi, to aid Damaturu forces.
Bego said he did not know the number of casualties in Damaturu.
Yobe state is the site of some of the most brutal Boko Haram attacks, including the slaughter of students at the College of Agriculture and high school students at Mamudo, as well as the recent bombing of the government secondary school in Potiskum.
Boko Haram has increased the frequency and deadliness of its attacks recently.
On Friday, bomb blasts and gunfire killed more than 100 people praying at the main mosque in northern Kano, Nigeria's second largest city.
The group has been blamed for thousands of deaths during its five-year insurgency in Nigeria. It has seized towns in Borno and Adamawa states for what it calls a caliphate to be ruled under strict Islamic law.
Last week, the United Nations said violence caused in the region by Boko Haram has caused more than 1.5 million Nigerians to flee their homes.
Some material for this report came from Reuters, AP and AFP.