At least five suicide bombings left dozens dead in Maiduguri, Nigeria, on Saturday. According to the Associated Press, 54 people are dead and more than 140 people have been injured in the multiple bombings, which began Saturday morning at a bustling fish market. Located in northeastern Nigeria, Maiduguri is the capital of Borno State and birthplace of Boko Haram, the extremist terrorist group responsible for thousands of murders and kidnappings in the region, including last year's kidnapping of nearly 300 Chibok teenage schoolgirls.
According to the AP, the bombings took place over four hours at various areas in Maiduguri, including a bus station, a fish market, a shopping center called Monday Market, and a military checkpoint just outside the city. The deadliest bombing occurred at the fish market, where at least 18 people were killed. "I saw many dead bodies lying on the ground, many dead, and several others badly injured," fish seller Idi Idrisa.
Salisu Kwaya Bura, Chief Medical Officer of Borno Specialists Hospital in Maiduguri, confirmed to reporters that the hospital received "50 dead bodies from the blast scenes" on Saturday, Reuters reports. The hospital also treated nearly 40 wounded people, with many more of the injured taken to local area hospitals.
As of Saturday afternoon, no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. However, early speculation places the blame on Boko Haram, which has been trying to seize the Borno capital over the last few months. Northeastern Nigeria is a Boko Haram stronghold, and the group, whose name roughly translates to "Western education is forbidden," controls much of the region.
As authorities struggle to count the dead and account for the wounded, there are conflicting reports about which suicide bombers were behind the attacks. Abubakar Gamandi, head of the fisherman’s union in Borno State, told The News Nigeria that the first bombing, at the fish market, was carried out by a female suicide bomber. "A female suicide bomber exploded as soon as she stepped out of a motorized rickshaw," Gamandi,told the news source.
However, BBC News reports that the first bombing may have been carried out by a 16-year-old boy, according to a witness who survived the blast. The eyewitness said he saw the teenage boy almost stopped by authorities, but it was too late.
Eyewitnesses at Monday Market, a busy shopping center in the city, also told BBC News that they saw two women detonate explosive devices. The eyewitnesses said one woman had a bomb strapped to her body, while the other woman had it concealed in a basket. Monday Market was previously targeted by suicide bombers in Novermber 2014, when twin blasts killed nearly 50 people.
If the reports of female and teenage suicide bombers are true, it would be in line with the recent acts of Boko Haram. Reports from earlier this year claimed that the terrorist group was now using abducted girls and teenagers, including the 276 missing Chibok girls, as suicide bombers.
In early January, Boko Haram also allegedly killed up to 2,000 people in a brutal attack on the town of Baga and nearby villages in northeastern Nigeria. The extremists militants rampaged the towns, torching a majority of the homes and buildings and causing survivors to flee.