ABUJA - Conflict in northeast Nigeria appears to be escalating with nearly 100 people killed and three abducted in separate attacks over the weekend.
Two vehicles exploded Saturday in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, not far from a movie theater and a wedding reception. Aid workers say among the dozens of bodies were many children.
About 60 kilometers away, residents of a farming village were rounded up, and scores were shot dead while their houses were burned.
At the scene of the blasts, Hassan Ali, a leader in a civilian security force called the “Civilian JTF,” is part of the rescue team that is still searching for corpses among the rubble.
He says, “The flame went up. Everybody started running. Some people in around the area start coming to rescue.”
Maiduguri is the capital of Borno State and the original home of Boko Haram, an Islamist militia that has killed thousands of people in four-and-a-half years of insurgency. Borno is one of three northeastern states that have been under emergency rule for more than nine months.
Other northern states have been targeted by suspected Boko Haram members, including Bauchi, where three polio vaccinators were kidnapped over the weekend.
The Nigerian military says air and ground assaults continue across the emergency zones and suspects in the bombings have been arrested. Both soldiers and terrorists have been killed in recent battles.
But Ali says civilians are often left to fend for themselves. “We have vast area here behind that is not covered by security and we have been bothering on that issue," he said. "Even our Civilian JTF who are here, they have been reporting this incident to the policemen and even the S.S. [State Security]. The security arrangement we are not happy with.”
At an international security conference last week in Abuja, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan reached out to the families of victims of other recent attacks, including a raid on a high school where nearly 60 students were killed.
“These gruesome and mindless acts of savagery is not Nigerian," he said. "It is not African. Let me assure Nigerians that we will spare no resource in bringing those murderers to justice.”
But with nearly a quarter of Nigeria’s national budget reserved for security, some northerners say financial resources are not lacking, but a better strategy or political will is needed.
Yusuf Arrigasiyyu. chairman of the Muslim Civil Society of Nigeria in the northern states, says, “We feel this was done because the government at the national level did not show serious concern. Because they are in control of the army, the air force and even the Nigerian police.”
Arrigassiyyu says Boko Haram attacks villages and schools with machine guns and bombs from the back of trucks. If Nigerians could figure out where they get the money for all that equipment, he says, they could stop the insurgency.
Abdulkareem Haruna contributed to this report from Maiduguri, Ibrahim Yakubu contributed to this report from Kaduna, Ardo Hazzad contributed to this report from Bauchi.