A suicide car bomber yesterday attacked a military checkpoint in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Damaturu, Yobe State, killing six soldiers and two civilians, police said.
Suspicion will fall on Islamist sect Boko Haram, which is waging an insurgency against President Goodluck Jonathan’s government across the north with the aim of carving out an Islamic state in a country split evenly between Christians and Muslims.
“The lone suicide bomber detonated the bomb before the car he was in could be stopped, killing the six soldiers and one civilian,” Patrick Egbmuniwe, the Police Commissioner for Yobe State, told Reuters by telephone.
“Another civilian died of his wounds in hospital shortly after.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Damaturu’s Shagari housing estate.
Labeled a foreign terrorist organisation by the United States, Boko Haram has been behind almost daily shootings and bombings in the volatile northeast.
Witness Abdullahi Sabo said the whole neighborhood shook when the Damaturu bomb exploded.
“The car blew up outside the front of my shop, the explosion was deadly,” he said. “After the dust settled, many security operatives were rushed to the hospital.”
In a separate incident, police said suspected sect members had shot dead a former Commissioner for Environment in neighboring Borno state, the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency, in the early hours of Saturday.
Damaturu is 130km (80 miles) west of Maiduguri, the Boko Haram stronghold.
The group wants Islamic law, or Sharia, to be imposed across Nigeria – and has carried out a series of deadly attacks in the past two years.
Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden”.
Sunday’s blast follows a failed attempt to blow up the state’s most senior Muslim cleric, the emir of Fika, last Friday.
The bomber tried to drive a car into the emir’s convoy just after he had left Friday prayers. He missed his target but several people in the area were badly injured.