JALINGO, Nigeria (AP) — Two motorcycle-riding suicide bombers drove into a convoy carrying a top police official in northeast Nigeria on Monday, detonating their explosives and killing at least five people, authorities said.
The attack targeted police commissioner Mamman Sule who was being driven in a convoy toward his offices, near the governor’s office in Jalingo, the capital of Taraba state, said police spokesman Ibiang Mbaseki. The bombers missed injuring Sule, but the explosives caused massive damage at a roadside market and blew out the glass windows of the nearby state Ministry of Finance building, witnesses said.
The commissioner "was the prime target," Mbaseki said.
An Associated Press reporter later saw seven corpses, including those of the suicide bombers, at a local hospital.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. It comes after bombers attacked Christian worship services Sunday at a university campus and a church in northern Nigeria, killing at least 21 people.
Sunday’s attacks mirrored others carried out by a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram. Representatives of Boko Haram, who typically speak to journalists at times of their choosing in telephone conference calls, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Boko Haram is waging a growing sectarian battle with Nigeria’s weak central government, using suicide car bombs and assault rifles in attacks across the country’s predominantly Muslim north and around its capital, Abuja. Those killed have included Christians, Muslims and government officials. The sect has been blamed for killing more than 450 people this year alone, according to an AP count.
Diplomats and military officials say Boko Haram has links with two other al-Qaida-aligned terrorist groups in Africa. Members of the sect also reportedly have been spotted in northern Mali, an area where Tuareg rebels and hardline Islamists seized control over the past month.
On Thursday, the sect carried out a suicide car bombing at the Abuja offices of the influential newspaper ThisDay and a bombing at an office building it shared with other publications in the city of Kaduna. At least seven people were killed in those attacks.
A statement Monday from President Goodluck Jonathan’s office condemned the church service attacks and other assaults in recent days.
"The terrorists … have shown even more clearly by their latest attacks on the media and the academic community that their objective is to destabilize the nation and its vital institutions," the statement read.
However, Nigerians are growing impatient with the federal government’s inability to stop the ever-increasing bloody attacks.
Taraba state, a largely rural expanse that borders Cameroon, has remained largely peaceful while Boko Haram attacks have raged across Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north. However, the state has had involvement with the sect in the past.
In February, secret police officers and soldiers in Taraba arrested the alleged mastermind of a Catholic church bombing by Boko Haram that killed at least 44 people. The suspect previously escaped police custody in Abuja.
Jon Gambrell reported from Lagos, Nigeria, and can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap.