32 dead, 80 injured in Nigeria bomb blast

KADUNA (Nigeria) • More than 30 people were killed when a bomb blast ripped through packed crowds in Yola, north-east Nigeria, just days after President Muhammadu Buhari declared during a visit that Boko Haram was close to defeat.

The explosion happened on Tuesday night in the Jambutu area of the Adamawa state capital, although it was not immediately clear whether it was caused by a suicide bomber or an improvised explosive device.

"So far, we've recorded about 32 dead and about 80 injured," said Mr Sa'ad Bello, the Yola coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency.

The blast bore all the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which has attacked Yola with suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices in recent months.

Mr Buhari was in Yola this month to decorate soldiers for bravery in the counter-insurgency, as well as to visit a camp for people displaced by six years of violence that has left at least 17,000 people dead.

He told troops he believed Boko Haram was "very close to defeat" and urged soldiers "to remain vigilant, alert and focused to prevent Boko Haram from sneaking into our communities to attack soft targets".

Tuesday's blast was the first in Nigeria this month, indicating the army's strategy to cut off the Islamists' supply lines and target their camps was paying off.

Mr Buhari has set his military commanders a deadline of the end of next month to crush the rebels, who have increasingly taken to attacking border areas of neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. But the Yola blast shows the difficulty in completely neutralising the threat, particularly in crowded areas.

On Monday, the army said it had foiled an attack using high-powered assault weapons and bombs in the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri. A bomb-making factory was also uncovered, it added.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg yesterday said the social network has activated its "Safety Check" feature for the first time in Nigeria after the blast to allow users to check whether friends are safe.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline '32 dead, 80 injured in Nigeria bomb blast'. Print Edition | Subscribe