Residents of Muna-Gari, a suburb of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, where four suicide bombers attacked on Wednesday evening, have buried 15 corpses, including an unborn baby that was forced out of its mother’s womb.
PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday gained an exclusive access to witness the mass funeral rite for the dead victims of the attack.
Most of the victims were killed while observing the late evening congregational prayers in an open mosque.
Also buried was a male fetus that was forced out of his mother’s womb by the bomb explosion activated by one of the female suicide bombers.
On Thursday, hundreds of grieving sympathizers converged at the premises of Muna Primary School to pay their last respects and offer prayers to the deceased.
Witnesses said the Wednesday attack could have been averted had there been enough security presence around their community.
Behind Muna-Gari is an open bush that leads to a thicker forest.
PREMIUM TIMES learned that there are only two military posts behind the suburb of Muna-Gari. There is a distance of about 8km between the two military posts.
Residents said the suicide bombers usually take advantage of the unprotected open space between the military posts to sneak into the community to carry out attacks.
Bukar Samaila, a trader and member of the volunteer vigilante, known as Civilian-JTF, told PREMIUM TIMES that it was the mercy of God that he was alive.
One of the suicide bombers attacked the house beside his provision store. It was there that the pregnant woman and her daughter were killed.
“We heard the first blast at exactly 5.57 p.m. when we were already at the mosque observing the Maghrib (late evening) prayer,” said Mr. Samaila.
“The second one came almost immediately from the second street. As I was rushing back to my shop area, I sighted two girls running unusually into the community from the bush area. Immediately I suspected her motive and raised alarm."
“One man responded by trying to stop her. But when he noticed that she was screaming and trying to pull out something from under her garment he pushed her away, just before the bomb on her went off. The man was lucky to be alive but he was badly affected by burns on his back. The second girl disappeared, no one could locate her."
“I came back to the shop, but something instinctively made me close the shop and go to check my family at home. I was barely halfway to my house when we heard the last bomb blast right inside the house sharing walls with my shop. I would have been either dead or badly injured had I delayed for a minute after I made the decision to leave for home."
“When we rushed back we found the corpse of the pregnant woman on the floor inside the smoke filled compound with her unborn baby also outside her forcefully opened stomach. Her eight years old daughter too was dead beside her. Another woman and a girl were also badly injured,” said Mr. Samaila.
Mr. Samaila said Muna-Gari and Muna Garage are separated by the Maiduguri-Gamboru highway that leads to Chad. The two locations have become the most notorious for Boko Haram suicide attacks in Borno.
He added that unlike in the past, there is a disconnect between the soldiers that are currently manning the posts and the local Civilian-JTF operatives.
“Most of us don’t know the soldiers and we don’t have their numbers,” he said.
“In the past, we used to share information quickly because we have each other’s phone number. Had we been armed with even hunting rifles, we could have been able to gun down the two girls that were spotted running into the community, even before we alert the soldiers.”
Adam Muhammed, a civil servant, whose parents live in Muna-Gari, informed PREMIUM TIMES that most of the suicide bombers were often seen by the local farmers when some persons would bring them on motorcycles and drop them off outside the parapet of sand built around Maiduguri.
“The suicide bombers are mostly dropped off far outside the villages at dusk by some persons riding motorcycles; and in some cases, our farmers would spot them and alert the soldiers or Civilian-JTF,” said Mr. Muhammed.
“The same thing happened last week when two girls were seen being dropped off by some persons and the farmer quickly informed the soldiers, who moved in and shot them dead before they could detonate the bombs on them.”
“But the truth of the matter, there are few soldiers here now. And the soldiers cannot protect the vast open land and bushes; that is why we have become so vulnerable to attacks. Let the state government and the military protect our lives by deploying more soldiers here, because the attack is almost becoming an everyday occurrence,” Mr. Muhammed said.