Two women carried out suicide bombings at a bustling market in the north-east Nigerian town of Madagali on Friday morning, killing at least 30 people and wounding 67, the army said.
The attack came as the Nigerian government claimed it was routing the Boko Haram extremists blamed for the blasts.
The explosions occurred on the edge of the extremist group’s Sambisa forest stronghold, which the Nigerian military has been bombing ahead of ground assaults. Since the military dislodged the insurgents from towns and villages this year, they have been attacking “soft targets”.
Madagali was liberated last year after months in the hands of Boko Haram. It is 95 miles south-east of the biggest north-eastern city, Maiduguri.
Friday’s blasts came simultaneously at opposite ends of the market selling grains and vegetables, according to Ahmadu Gulak, a driver who was buying tea there.
Rescue workers took away the bodies of 30 people and took 67 wounded victims to a nearby hospital, army spokesman Maj Badere Akintoye said.
A bus station near the same market was targeted by two female suicide bombers last December, when at least 30 people were killed. In June, Boko Haram extremists opened fire on mourners at a funeral in Madagali, killing 18 people.
The attacks continue despite government and military assertions that the insurgents are on the run. The president, Muhammadu Buhari, declared the extremist group was “technically defeated” in December 2015.
Last week, a year later, he said a multinational force from Nigeria and neighbouring states was getting ready to “move simultaneously and spontaneously for us to see the end of Boko Haram”.
Buhari said the insurgents were “done for” in the Lake Chad basin bordering Nigeria, Chad and Niger. But the United Nations says more than a million people are believed trapped there by ongoing fighting without food or medical help.
Boko Haram’s seven-year uprising has killed more than 20,000 people and forced 2.6 million from their homes. The UN has launched a $1bn appeal to help 5.1 million people in danger of starvation, calling the crisis in north-east Nigeria the worst on the African continent.
Buhari has accused the UN and aid agencies of exaggerating the crisis to seek donations.
“The government seems to be more interested in managing perception,” Lagos-based analysts from SBM Intelligence said on Friday. They said much of the crisis was “rooted in the ineptitude of the (state) agencies involved, rife corruption causing diversion of the food aid, and the still-present threat of Boko Haram ambushes, which make the provision of supplies a risky undertaking”.