Maiduguri — Fifty six people were killed in Maiduguri yesterday after a vehicle loaded with bombs exploded in front of the popular Maiduguri Monday market.
Majority of the dead are children and old women who eke out a living selling groundnut in front of the market which traders normally buy and give as alms to young Tsangaya school pupils.
Also killed were nine youth vigilantes and passengers waiting to board buses in front of a motor park opposite the market, witnesses said.
Sadiq Abba Tijjani, the Secretary General of the civilian JTF in Borno, who spoke to journalists in the evening yesterday, said they have confirmed the death of 56 people.
"Our findings at the scene of the unfortunate blast and hospitals reveal that 56 people were killed. We have seen 21 dead bodies that are recognisable and there are 35 others that are beyond recognition," he said.
Many shops, make shift stalls, cars and tricycles were also destroyed by the explosion which left a big crater in road.
The blast occurred around 7.50am when shop owners, hawkers and beggars had started trooping to the market.
Witnesses said the bomber drove his bomb laden car from Bama road and drove through Gwange ward before reaching the market.
"He was moving fast and nobody stopped him until he got close to the PHCN office near the Monday market," Driver Bakari Aliyu said.
"But the hawkers close to the PHCN office were not comfortable with the vehicle and therefore warned him not to park. In fact, he was asked to move from three different places before he reached the point where the bomb exploded," he said.
Salamatu Bakaka, 59, one of the survivors of the blast said some of her colleagues had been killed.
"I also sell groundnut in front of the Monday Market but as luck would have it, I was on my way when the bomb exploded... I was very close to the market when I heard a loud blast around 7.50am," she said.
Youth vigilantes at the market said they had to use hand gloves to pick human parts.
"Many bodies could not be recognised because the heads were chopped off. There are many people that lost their hands and many others were burnt beyond recognition," one of the youths said.
Governor Kashim Shettima, who visited the scene of the blast in the afternoon, described the activities of the Boko Haram as "Satanic, barbaric, wicked, and condemnable and fight against the teachings of Islamic which preaches peace."
He said the campaign of violence raging in Borno and other places will not last forever.
"We would not be deterred by the antics of the Boko Haram. We would continue to provide services to our people," he said.
Borno State Police commissioner Mr. Lawan Tanko who briefed the Governor at the scene of the blast did not give the number of people killed.
"The explosion was caused by a car loaded with explosive concealed under bags of charcoal and many people were killed," he said.
General Manager of the Monday Market Babagana Bukar Jere also told the governor that nine members of the youth vigilante, also known as civilian JTF were among those killed.
"There are 69 people that sustained various degrees of injuries and have been taken to various hospitals for treatment," Jere said.
Our correspondent reports that the injured were taken to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), Borno State Specialists Hospital, Umaru Shehu Hospital and Mamman Shuwa Memorial Hospital.
The governor who proceeded to the Specialists Hospital and the Umaru Shehu Hospital sympathised with the victims and promised to foot their medical bills.
Dr Laraba Bello, the Chief Medical Director of the Specialists Hospital said 18 people who suffered first degree burns are being treated at the facility.
A source at the hospital's morgue said some decapitated bodies were deposited there.
While speaking with some officials of the vigilantes at the government house, the governor announced a donation of N1 million each to the families of the nine civilian JTF killed.
Victims recount ordeals
Mallam Kalli, a taxi driver who was badly injured said he was directly behind the bomb laden car when it exploded.
He was seen at the Umaru Shehu Hospital with burns and deep cuts on his head.
"I escaped narrowly and only saw myself in the hospital being treated. I think I fainted when the bomb exploded," he said.
Another man, whose name could not be ascertained, said he was on his way to hospital with two of his wives when the bomb exploded.
"I am grateful to Allah for saving my life. As you can see, one of my wives is also here in the hospital with injuries but I don't know where the other one is. I hope she would be found," he said.