Boko Haram jihadists attacked the Nigerian city of Maiduguri in the volatile northeast, killing 16 people, including nine children who were playing football in a field, local militia told AFP Wednesday.
In videos circulating on social media, hundreds of people could be seen rushing to help wounded victims, with one resident speeding off in a car with injured people inside.
Officials said previously 10 people were killed and 47 were injured in Tuesday’s attack on the densely-populated city of three million people when jihadists fired rocket-propelled grenades.
“The death toll has risen to 16,” Babakura Kolo, the leader of a self-defence militia, told AFP.
In many parts of Nigeria, communities have resorted to relying on armed vigilantes or militias, who work alongside the army, for defence.
In one of the neighbourhoods attacked, Gwange, nine boys were killed when one of the explosives landed in a field where they were playing football, Kolo said.
“Initially four died but five more died from the serious injuries they sustained from the explosion.”
Another militiaman, Umar Ari, gave the same death toll and said it could still rise as many were injured.
Eyewitness Sama’ila Ibrahim said the jihadists crossed the ditch fortification around Maiduguri, sending residents scrambling for safety with sporadic shooting.
Ibrahim said the militants came through Boboshe village, a known Boko Haram enclave.
Attacks by the group on the regional capital are usually foiled in fierce gun battles with Nigerian troops, but they have fired explosives on residential areas in the past, injuring several people.
People in Maiduguri have been struggling with a power blackout, after jihadists blew up supply lines, causing water shortages and disrupting businesses and daily life.
“The destruction, done using an improvised explosive device, has left populated Maiduguri in darkness for in nearly one month now,” the local governor’s office said in statement.
The city is home to several internally displaced persons (IDP) camps for people forced to flee other areas due to military operations against the jihadists.
Boko Haram is not the only active jihadist group in the region.
The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) that emerged in 2016 has become a dominant threat, attacking soldiers and bases while killing and kidnapping passengers at bogus checkpoints.
Since the insurgency began in 2009, the jihadist conflict has killed 36,000 people and displaced around two million from their homes in the region.
The violence has spread to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military coalition to fight the insurgents.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari appointed new military commanders last month, after mounting pressure even from some allies, in what experts said was a bid to breathe new life into the top military ranks.