(Death toll from Maiduguri bomb blasts rises to 52 •NLC threatens to mobilize against killings)
Barely four hours after dozens of residents of Ajilari-Bintu Sugar were killed by twin-bomb blasts in Maiduguri, another 39 persons were killed Saturday in Mainok, a village 55 kilometres from the state capital. This is just as the death toll from the twin-bomb explosions in Maiduguri has risen to 52, even as some persons were still believed to be trapped in the collapsed building Sunday. In reaction to the rising body count from the North-east, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has threatened to mobilise workers nationwide to protest against the killings of innocent Nigerians and the destruction of property by the terrorists. It was gathered yesterday that the suicide bombers, who detonated the bombs were targeting a marriage ceremony in Ajilari-Bintu Sugar. It is believed that the marriage ceremony may have been targeted because the insurgents in the past have sent warnings to residents of the state against hosting such occasions, especially when dressed in uniforms (locally known as Aso Ebi). However, another major disaster was averted in the troubled city yesterday when eight suspected insurgents who were on a mission to kill traders at the popular Maiduguri Monday market were apprehended and handed over to soldiers. A trader in the market, Babagana Tijjani, who spoke to journalists, said four of the insurgents, who were dressed in military uniforms, were apprehended while attempting to gain entrance into the market. Tijjani said it was the four suspected terrorists who confessed that four colleagues of theirs were already in the market waiting for reinforcement from them before the siege. He said: “The four insurgents dressed in military uniforms drove from the direction of Customs Area in a Toyota Sienna. They were suspected by the Civilian JTF on guard in the market and were questioned, after which they were arrested.” He added that it was during the interrogation that they confessed that four others were already in the market waiting for them. This prompted the youths to go after them and apprehended them. Tijjani, who said the terrorists were caught at about 10 am, added: “They said their intention was to shoot at people in the market; to killing and cause bodily harm.” Meanwhile, further information on Saturday’s bomb blasts revealed that 32 persons had died on the spot at the wedding ceremony which had a high attendance. It was also learnt that the first bomb blast that led to the death of the 32 people, was followed moments later by the second explosion, killing 20 others. A leader of the Civilian JTF in Sector 6, Umaru Ahmed, who was invited by his colleagues in Bintu Sugar to assist them evacuate the corpses of the victims, said: “I was part of the team that evacuated 52 bodies from the debris, they were corpses of men, women, children and the elderly.” He said the 52 bodies were taken to the morgue of the state Specialist Hospital, Maiduguri.Ahmed, who also revealed that 30 injured persons were taken to another hospital, Umaru Shehu Ultra Modern Hospital, for treatment, expressed concern that some bodies were still trapped in the collapsed building and had not been evacuated as at press time. He confirmed that the first explosion had hit the marriage party and instantly killed 32 persons. Ahmed said as the people of the area were busy evacuating the corpses and assisting injured persons, the second explosion was heard nearby which injured some of the people evacuating the corpses at the marriage ceremony. Ahmed, who revealed that 20 persons died from the second explosion, said the bomb was planted in two vans loaded with firewood. He said the suicide bombers pretended they had wanted to buy food from the food vendors at the night market and attracted no attention from the people of the area. Ahmed further revealed that the suicide bombers were seven in number, of which six had died in the explosion, but the one who survived had been handed over to the soldiers. As part of rescue efforts, the deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Zannah Mustapha, yesterday directed a grader to be sent to the area in order to commence the immediate excavator of the building in order to reach persons still trapped in the debris. The deputy governor, who was told by the residents of the area that 46 people had died on the spot during the explosion, was also informed that six persons later died in the hospital. He told the people that the governor who was out of town had directed him to come and sympathize with them, pending his return. Mustapha said the governor had directed him to tell them that on his return he would also pay a visit and render financial assistance to assuage the loss of lives and property. The deputy governor urged them to take the loss as an act of God, advising them to pray for the repose of the souls of those that died in the incident. He directed the chairman of the local government to liaise with the people of the area and get the actual number of victims in the hospital for immediate assistance from the government. A visit round Maiduguri revealed that the Civilian JTF who had for a while vacated the streets due to absence of terror attacks on the city were back at their posts. Many youths wielding stick and cut-lasses were seen yesterday mounting roadblocks and checking vehicles for arms. These subsequently led to traffic jams on most of the major roads in the town. However, in what has turned into a season of deaths, an attack on Mainok, Borno State, added to the long list of towns and villages that have come under attack in a period of one month in the North-east. According to residents of Mainok, no fewer than 39 people were on Saturday night killed by suspected Boko Haram insurgents. Mansur Buba, a local in the area, told journalists that some insurgents laid ambush on the village around 10 pm. He said: “We were in a sombre mood following the incident in Maiduguri when we started hearing gunshots and thereafter, they started hurling explosives on houses. This morning (yesterday), we counted 39 bodies.” Also, Mustapha Musa, a civil servant who drove through Mainok, said yesterday that the village was in ruins, adding, “As at 10 am today (yesterday), many buildings were still in flames. Almost the entire village, with hundreds of houses have been destroyed by the ravaging insurgents. “I saw dead bodies in front of the Central Mosque of the village waiting to be buried. The primary school in the village has also been burnt. So also some vehicles and shops.” A senior officer of the State Security Service (SSS) confirmed the incident, saying: “Yes, Mainok was attacked and over 30 people were killed.” Speaking on the Mainok attack, the deputy governor said the village is one of the places the governor is scheduled to visit to pay his condolences. Incensed by the series of attacks and rising death toll in the three states in the North-east, the NLC yesterday threatened to mobilise workers to protest against the killings of innocent Nigerians and the destruction of properties by the Boko Haram sect. This comes as the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) has declared today a day of mourning in honour of the 43 students of the Federal Government College, Buni-Yadi, Yobe State, who were killed by the sect last Tuesday. The congress, while expressing shock at the incessant killings of Nigerians in the northern part of the country, said it founds it unacceptable that the military and other security forces could not respond to the distress calls made by the defenceless citizens. “We at the Nigeria Labour Congress are shocked by this brazen and ferocious savagery and saddened by the seeming helplessness of our security forces. The earlier successes of the declaration of emergency seem to have petered away, giving room to despair. “The massacre of defenseless students in Yobe State and the routine decimation of communities in Borno and Adamawa States bring to the fore the gory reality of the new phase of war on terror. In the attack on the students, the Boko Haram members were reported to have operated for hours unchallenged. “The attacks on Michika, Madagali and Shuwa, in Adamawa and Borno States respectively, were more audacious as the terror elements were said to have moved in murderous convoys of Hilux, chanting war songs in broad day light, killing, pillaging and daring anyone to challenge them. Distress calls to our security forces were said to have elicited no reaction,” it said. The NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, in a statement wondered if the insurgents were getting better organised, armed or funded, stressing that despite the challenges facing the intelligence and security forces, the armed forces could not afford to be caught napping. “Have inter-agency/service rivalries worsened? Are security votes drying up or are they being misapplied? Are our forces sufficiently and adequately armed and motivated? Do we have a desert army? Are some people somewhere playing roulette with the security of Nigeria? Are the hands of our troops tied behind their back? Have coordination and synergy built over time by different tiers of government suddenly broken down?” the NLC president asked. On his part, the ASCSN Secretary-General, Alade Bashir Lawal, said yesterday that the leadership of the union had decided that members should observe today as lecture-free day in all 104 Federal Unity Colleges (FUCs) across the country to enable both management and staff of the schools mourn the students who were brutally murdered by the Boko Haram militants. “We believe that this gesture is the least honour that can be accorded the defenceless students who were murdered in their prime by the religious bigots. “It will also send a strong signal to the Boko Haram militants that the entire society is united against its dastardly act,” the statement added. The union noted that the one-day mourning was also a show of solidarity with the management, staff and parents of the deceased students.