Thirty people were killed when three people blew themselves up on Sunday night in a busy market in north-east Nigeria, which has seen a recent increase in attacks by militant groups.
Many were watching the evening news and waiting for the football to come on when the bombs went off in the village just outside Konduga, Borno state, wounding a further 42 people.
A military source said the bombers detonated their devices “at the viewing centre opposite a clinic in Mandarari ward at about 9.15pm”. He added: “Another female bomber whose IED [improvised explosive device] failed to detonate was apprehended and handed over to the Nigerian army.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but officials of a civilian vigilante group suspect it was the work of the faction of Boko Haram led by Abubakar Shekau.
The head of Borno’s emergency agency, Usman Kachala, said the military closed the road to the site of the attack so rescue workers could not reach survivors for 12 hours.
“When me and my team arrived in Konduga early this morning, the military prevented us from gaining access to the community to assist the victims,” Kachala said. “They told us they were given orders from above not to open the road until 9am.”
As a result the death toll, which had been 17, rose to 30, he said.
Viewing centres with big screens are where people gather to watch football and relax, particularly in villages like Mandarari, which hosts people who fled Boko Haram and was the target of a very similar attack in 2017.
Abubakar Babagana came to watch the news, and his younger brother came along for the Copa América football game afterwards.
“I heard a loud bang and found myself on the ground, covered in sand,” he said. “I tried getting up, but felt sharp pain all over my body and noises everywhere, and I passed out.
“I woke up to find I had broken my arms and leg, and was told my brother had died in the blast. I lost four relatives and many friends.”
In his hospital bed in Maiduguri, Habu Isa found it hard to believe his three friends were dead.
“I was the one who even encouraged them to come and watch the game, because they were reluctant initially,” he said. “I feel very guilty leading them to their untimely death.”
The two women and one man who carried out the attacks were not necessarily “suicide bombers”, as Boko Haram often straps explosives on its abductees, including young children, and tricks theminto detonating them at checkpoints and marketplaces – so they do not always intend to kill themselves.
Nigeria is facing many threats to its security: since 2011 more than 1,000 people have been killed, and tens of thousands of homes burned and cattle rustled in the north-western state of Zamfara, where the security forces appear unable to bring armed bandits under control. On Sunday, 34 people were killed there. Many attribute the violence to conflict between herders and farmers, which is also rife across the country’s central Middle Belt, where in three years it has claimed 4,000 lives.
The north-east has been destabilised for nearly a decade by the militant group Boko Haram, which most notoriously kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in 2014. President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to bring security to the region, and was re-elected this year partly on this promise. But Boko Haram and its powerful Islamic State-allied offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap), have recently launched many attacks in this area of Nigeria and its neighbours.
Last Wednesday, militants attacked a battalion in the village of Kareto, reportedly killing many men including the battalion’s commander. A day later, the multinational joint taskforce fighting militants across the Lake Chad region said 300 Boko Haram militants had attacked Darak, a village in northern Cameroon, killing 10 of its personnel and eight civilians. More than 60 militants were killed and eight captured, a spokesman said.