STRIFE-torn northern Nigeria was hit by two deadly attacks on New Year’s eve, when a female suicide bomber was killed as she tried to enter a military barracks and seven died in a bus explosion.
With the attack, northeast Nigeria closed 2014 as it opened it - with extremist violence. Experts have cast doubt on the country’s ability to hold planned national elections in February, because of rising unrest in parts of the northeast.
That attack on the barracks in Bolari, in Gombe state, and another earlier on the day in which seven people were killed when a bus exploded in a village close to Potiskum, the commercial capital of northern Yobe state, would have done nothing to reassure that 2015 would improve enough for a peaceful poll to be held in the region.
Eyewitness to the incident at the barracks said soldiers opened fire on the woman when she refused to be searched as she approached the barracks in Bolari, in Gombe state, detonating the explosives belt she was wearing, according to eyewitness accounts.
The woman, who was wearing a hijab, was killed instantly, witnesses said.
“The woman refused to stop and continued to advance towards the military guards at the gates despite repeated orders from them to stop at a distance,” said Shuaibu Nasir, who lives near the gates of the barracks.
“The soldiers opened fire on the woman who quickened her pace towards them and as they fired shots at her she exploded with a loud sound that shook our buildings,” Nasir said.
Nigeria’s northeastern Gombe state has been the scene of several attacks by the Islamist group Boko Haram in recent months, and the same barracks were targeted in July.
Wednesday’s blast prompted policemen to fire warning shots in the air, causing panic among residents, Nasir said.
Another resident, Ahmed Baballe, said the would-be bomber was “blown to pieces” by the impact of the explosion.
“The soldiers didn’t take chances with the woman and opened fire when she showed no sign of stopping to be searched,” Baballe said.
Northeast Nigeria has been continually rocked by attacks mounted by Boko Haram militants, increasingly using female suicide bombers.
The extremist group, whose name roughly means “Western education is forbidden”, have killed thousands since it began a deadly insurgency in northern Nigeria in 2009.
Experts have cast doubt on Nigeria’s ability to hold planned national elections in February, because of rising unrest in parts of the northeast.
Earlier on Wednesday, a bus exploded in a village close to Potiskum.
“The bus went up in flames from multiple blasts that killed all seven men inside,” said Hambali Baidu, a resident of Maiduwa village, which lies some 60 kilometers (40 miles) from the city.
No official confirmation of the death toll has been given.
“We heard a series of explosions from the bus which went flying into the air in flames,” said Usman Haruna, another resident.
“They were no doubt Boko Haram militants on their way to carry out attacks.”