A young girl — about 10 years old — was reportedly involved in a deadly suicide bombing Saturday at a bustling market in Nigeria. Witnesses described seeing the child walking with explosives strapped her body before a blast detonated that killed at least 19 people and injured many more in the city of Maiduguri.
"She was searched at the market and the metal detector indicated that she was carrying something," local resident Ashiru Mustapha told AFP. "But sadly, the explosion went off before she was isolated."
Suicide bombers reportedly hit the same market twice late last year.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the recent bombing, but it occurred in the northeastern area of Nigeria where the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram was involved in a horrific massacre — possibly killing as many as 2,000 people — over the past 10 days.
"I doubt much if she actually knew what was strapped to her body," Mustapha said of the child suicide bomber.
Thousands of Nigerians have fled the recent Boko Haram attacks by crossing the border into neighboring Chad. The UN's refugee agency announced Friday that 7,300 people arrived in Chad this week alone, a daunting crisis that has led the country's prime minister to issue requests for emergency supplies and food.
Chad now houses more than 10,000 Nigerian refugees, about 1,000 of which are stranded on the island of Kangala in Lake Chad. The rest of the new refugees are currently staying with local communities in western Chad as they await the potential opening of a camp this week.
Nigeria's Muslim cleric Balarabe Da'ud, asked his people to pray for the nation's armed forces to defeat Boko Haram.
"Nigerians should dedicate time to pray for the permanent return of peace to our country," Da'ud said, according to the Nigeria-based news site TODAY. "We need to pray fervently to God to give our vibrant military the courage, strength and victory over the heartless people who are killing innocent souls day by day without justification."
The Nigerians who successfully fled Boko Haram not only face resettlement struggles, but many have also lost the bulk of their families in the brutal assaults.
The entire town of Baga has been demolished, and 3,400 people fled there in just one day during a devastating January 3 attack.
Bulama Maka told the Wall Street Journal that he lost all five of his children during the escape from Baga. He said two children drowned as the family swam from Baga across Lake Chad, and the three others were shot days later.
The UN says the conflict in northeast Nigeria has led to the exodus of 135,000 people — forcing around 35,000 Nigerians to flee to Cameroon and 10,000 to Chad — and caused the internal displacement of at least 850,000 people within Nigeria's Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states.
"The government of Chad has sent a mission and medical teams to the area and is providing food assistance and other basic supplies," a UN statement said, adding that humanitarian agencies are currently their assessing needs.
The UN requested $34 million from donors this fall to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
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