Two female suicide bombers killed at least 22 people on Wednesday at a mosque outside the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the heart of a seven-year insurgency by Boko Haram militants, a military spokesman said.
The attack, which also wounded 18 people, occurred during morning prayers in the village of Ummarari, four miles from the center of the capital of Borno state in Africa's most populous country. The first of the two bombers detonated inside the mosque itself. As people fled the building, the second bomber blew herself up outside, according to the BBC.
"Sadly, 22 people were killed and 18 others sustained various degrees of injuries... The first attack targeted a mosque, while the second blast was about 50 meters away, a few minutes later," said military spokesman Colonel Sani Usman. The injured victims have reportedly been taken to a hospital for medical care.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but it resembled others by Boko Haram in its campaign to carve out a fundamentalist Islamic state in the region. It was the first such assault in the northeast since early February, when two suicide bombers — also women — blew themselves up at a camp for internally displaced people in Dikwa, 50 miles from Maiduguri. This was the closest attack to the state capital since the end of January when 65 people were killed in a nearby village.
"One of the two female bombers, disguised as a male worshipper, joined other Muslim brothers in the mosque at Ummarari-Molai during prayers," said Malum Farouk, a member of a grassroots security group in a civilian joint task force.
The Nigerian military ramped up its campaign against Boko Haram in the last year. The government has since claimed a number of victories, like regaining territory previously captured by the home-grown Islamist militant group. While Boko Haram has been pushed from some of its strongholds in the country's northeast, security experts have pointed to the fact that this has simply caused the militants to shift their tactics and carry out a guerrilla-style campaign.
The brutal January assault in the village of Dalori, located just a few miles from Maiduguri, involved suicide bombings, firing at villagers, and setting fire to houses. More than 60 people died. During the February attack in Dikwa, about 50 miles away, two women carried out the suicide attacks at the center of the camp for internally displaced persons, as people were gathered to pick up food rations. More than 70 people were injured and nearly 60 died. Nigeria's government vowed to increase security at displacement sites after the bombings in Dikwa.
Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians in the north have fled their homes over the last year in the face of continued attacks by Boko Haram. In 2015 alone, more than 500,000 children were forced out of their homes in the country, while also coming in from neighboring countries where the militants have expanded their reach. There are now more than 2.2 million displaced people in the country, with 1.6 million residing in Maiduguri, which has borne the brunt of the insurgency.
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