BAUCHI, Nigeria (AP) — Suspected Islamic extremists struck in two state capitals in northeastern Nigeria on Monday, killing at least seven people and injuring dozens with a double bombing at a crowded market and an attack on a police base. Around 30 extremists were also killed in clashes with security forces, police said.
The attacks were the latest in a week of violence linked to Islamic militants that has killed more than 170 people in northern Nigeria.
Police spokesman Gideon Jubrin said at least five people were killed at a market in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state where two female suicide bombers also killed 70 people a week ago.
A vigilante official said two young female suicide bombers were also responsible for Monday's blasts and that they had recovered their bodies along with those of six victims. Hospital officials said they were treating more than 40 people with serious injuries. The vigilante and hospital officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give information to reporters.
In Damaturu, the provincial capital of Yobe state some 135 kilometers (85 miles) west of Maiduguri, extremists destroyed several buildings and killed at least two doctors when they stormed the residential quarters at the general hospital, according to the Hospitals Management Board. Three other doctors were abducted.
Police there said the attackers drove State Security Service agents from their offices but were repelled, and about 30 terrorists were killed when they tried to take over Yobe Government House, where there is a military armory.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Maiduguri blasts but people blamed Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group that has carried out many such attacks in a 5-year insurgency that has killed thousands and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Bala Dauda, a trader at the market there, said rescue workers were evacuating the dead and wounded from the site.
"I have seen very many victims dripping with blood, others with parts of their bodies dismembered by the blasts," Dauda told The Associated Press by telephone.
After the explosions, young men in vigilante groups barricaded some Maiduguri roads to try to ensure safety in the city. These community defense groups and security forces are accused of summary executions and other rights abuses of people they believe are extremists.
In Damaturu, explosions and gunfire erupted before dawn Monday causing some residents to flee into the bush and others to cower in their homes. The militants targeted a rapid-response police base on the outskirts of Damaturu, said resident Garba Musa.
"It has been burned down completely," he said.
Police said the attackers also destroyed multiple buildings at the Yobe state university, while the Defense Ministry headquarters said a fighter jet was repelling the attackers. A helicopter gunship was hovering over the town.
Witnesses said the aircraft drove the fighters out of Damaturu, strafing and bombing.
"We don't know where to hide, the shooting is all over ... We are running for our lives," said resident Musa Abbas.
The attacks on the two state capitals show an acceleration of the extremist violence in northeastern Nigeria.
Boko Haram, the West African's nation's homegrown Islamic extremist group, has been striking with increased frequency and deadliness since the military declared the insurgents had agreed to a ceasefire in September.
On Friday, bomb blasts and gunfire killed more than 100 people praying at the main mosque in northern Kano, Nigeria's second largest city.
Boko Haram is holding a couple dozen cities and towns along Nigeria's northeast border where it has declared an Islamic caliphate.
The extremists frequently attack moderate Muslims they accuse of collaborating with the secular government and are holding hundreds of hostages, including 219 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok town.
There are fears they may be using some kidnapped girls as suicide bombers.
Associated Press writer Michelle Faul contributed to this report from Conakry, Guinea.