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90 killed in dual attacks on Nigerian city, village

Government seen as overwhelmed in face of uprising

Nigerians examined the rubble Sunday after two car bombs exploded in Maiduguri the previous night.

JOSSY OLA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Nigerians examined the rubble Sunday after two car bombs exploded in Maiduguri the previous night.

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Twin car bombs at a bustling city marketplace blasted buildings to rubble in northern Nigeria and an attack on a farming village razed every thatched-roof hut. At least 90 people were killed in the two attacks, officials and survivors said Sunday.

Nigeria’s Islamic extremists have intensified attacks in the region, and there is growing criticism over the failure of the military and government to suppress the four-year-old uprising.

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In Maiduguri, capital of Borno state and birthplace of the Boko Haram terrorist network, the attackers chose a densely populated area with narrow alleyways that maximized the blasts. They also selected a Saturday night, when the market was open late.

The victims included children dancing at a wedding celebration and people watching a soccer match at a cinema, survivors said.

Fifty-one bodies were retrieved by Sunday morning, but many more are believed buried in rubble, said a Red Cross official who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. Some were burned beyond recognition in fires caused by the explosions.

In a village about 40 miles away, suspected extremists killed 39 people.

Mansur Buba, a cab driver, said he returned home Sunday to find victims being buried in Mainok village, which has been attacked many times in the past year. A State Security Service agent said no huts were left standing there.

In Maiduguri, the headquarters of the army and air force offensive against Boko Haram, the first bomb came from a pickup truck loaded with firewood, said Hassan Ali, the leader of an antiterror vigilante group.

Many more people were killed in the second blast, which was timed to catch people who rushed to the aid of those wounded in the first explosion, survivors said.

Survivors said they captured a man who drove the second car to the scene, jumped out, grabbed a tricycle taxi, and tried to make off. He was badly beaten and taken to nearby Umaru Shehu General Hospital, where a security guard said all the wounded brought in had died. Most survivors insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals.

At the hospital, wailing families collected bodies for immediate burial, in the Muslim tradition.

It was not known how many wounded are being treated in three hospitals in the city.

Military and police officials did not immediately offer comment and there was no claim of responsibility from Boko Haram, which communicates only through occasional videos.

The attack is a major setback to the latest government offensive under new commanders since President Goodluck Jonathan fired his entire military command in January.

Since then, criticism and anger have grown as attacks have increased and become deadlier: More than 300 people were killed in February alone in the neighboring states of Adamawa and Yobe.

Soldiers are accused of abandoning checkpoints and leaving civilians at the mercy of extremists in two attacks last week that killed about 100 people, including 59 students at a high school.

Soldiers have complained they are outnumbered and armed only with automatic rifles yet are expected to confront militants firing antiaircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Maiduguri has suffered two attacks in the past six months: a Jan. 14 bomb that killed about 40 people and a bold assault Dec. 5 on the air force base and an army barracks on the outskirts in which all five aircraft on the runway were destroyed.

Such attacks have led to accusations by regional officials of collusion between some military officers and the terrorist network, which wants to impose Islamic rule across Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer and most populous nation; its roughly 170 million people includes almost equal numbers of Christians and Muslims.

Opposition politicians blame a failure of leadership by Jonathan, whose perceived desire to run for reelection next February has prompted defections from the governing party amid accusations that he plans to flout a party rule alternating leadership between a Muslim northerner and someone like Jonathan, a southern Christian.

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