In an apparent move aimed at embarrassing the newly appointed Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai who is on morale-boosting visit to troops on the frontline in Yobe State, Boko Haram terrorists yesterday struck at the screening area for Eid prayer in Damaturu, killing over 50 people with many others injured.
The attack carried out by two suicide bombers in the early hours of friday came barely 24hours after the bombings at Gombe Central Market in which over 50 people were also killed.
The high presence of the military to forestall any security breach during the celebration and the presence of soldiers that greeted the arrival of Buratai did not discourage the suicide bombers from attacking the praying grounds.
The Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman who confirmed this in a statement yesterday, said that the two suicide bomb explosions took place at about 7.40am.
According to Usman: “Two female suicide bombers; an elderly woman and a 10 year old girl detonated devices at screening areas mounted by the security for intending Muslim worshippers at Layin Gwange, Damaturu and at Phase One, in front of former State Secretariat Complex, Damaturu.
“43 persons died in the first explosion and several people injured, while seven people lost their lives in the second explosion.”
Surprisingly, Usman issued another statement later in the day to revise downward the casualty figures to 11.
Sources however said the first figure of 50 killed was the authentic one and that the figure was deliberately revised downward for political reasons.
The Army spokesman stated that troops and security agencies responded immediately to the incidents to bring the situation under control.
Usman assured that the situation was currently under control and that Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State and the Chief of Army Staff, have sympathised with the victims and the people of the state. He urged residents to stay calm and be security conscious at all times.
This latest dastardly act in Damaturu brings to 100, the number of those killed since the new Chief of Army Staff took over few days ago and over 700 since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on May 29, 2015.
After the attack, Buratai joined the state governor and some government officials/military personnel to pray at the Yobe Mosque and Islamic Centre.
Shortly after prayers, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam appreciated the coming of the Army chief, insisting that he has a lot ahead of him in maintaining peace in the troubled area.
The COAS on his part said his coming was a strategic decision.
Buratai also said the visit would afford him the opportunity to assess the equipment on ground and the level of the threat posed by the Boko Haram militants.
On whether the over 4,000 soldiers sacked by the Army over the Boko Haram fight would be recalled, Buratai said he would not tolerate indiscipline in the Army.
While in the state, the chief of army staff is expected to hold discussions with officers and men on ground with a view to enhancing the fight against the terrorists.
In Maiduguri, the capital of troubled Borno State, the celebration was low key as residents of the town were locked in for security reasons.
Many of those who went to the congregational prayer had to trek a long distance as vehicular movements were restricted.