An explosion near a bus station in the northeast Nigerian city of Gombe killed at least five and injured 15 others, witnesses told AFP on Thursday, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram.
“We had an explosion outside the motor park (bus station) this evening around 8:30 pm (1930 GMT) which killed five people and injured 15 others,” said Muhammad Garkuwa, a drivers’ union official.
“The explosion was from an explosive left by a woman in her handbag beside a bus waiting to convey passengers to Jos,” he said in an account supported by a nearby food seller.
The attack is the latest in a string of similar explosions against so-called “soft targets” such as busy bus stations and crowded markets in the restive northeast, which has been hit for the last six years by Boko Haram Islamists.
The group has been pushed out of captured territory in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states since February by a four-nation coalition of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Since then, the group has reverted to guerrilla tactics, including suicide bombings and attacks on civilians in urban centres.
Garkuwa said he loaded the casualties into a vehicle while Yusuf Darazo, who sells food near the bus station, said the female suspect left her bag after being told the bus’s destination.
“No-one suspected her. People around assumed she was making calls before the bus filled up,” he said.
“As she was talking in the phone she moved away from the bus towards a row of kiosks, as if she wanted to buy something, leaving her bag where she was standing.
“She disappeared and the bag exploded soon after, setting the bus on fire. I saw five dead and several injured.”
Boko Haram fighters were suspected at the weekend of attacking a number of polling stations in Gombe state as Nigerians went to the polls to elect a new president.
At least seven people were killed and there was a wave of attacks on Saturday and Sunday in neighbouring Bauchi state, prompting a an indefinite round-the-clock curfew, including in the capital, Bauchi city.
The lock-down has now been lifted.
Residents in Kasheri, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Gombe city, and nearby Pindiga and Tumu, reported seeing suspected Boko Haram fighters and that they were firing in the air.
Some were barefoot and appeared disorientated, asking for directions, they added.
Nigeria’s military insists that it finally has Boko Haram in the run, after more than 13,000 people have been killed and some 1.5 million left homeless.
President-elect Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday vowed to crush Boko Haram, vowing to rid Nigeria of the scourge of “terrorism”.