By USAM SADIQ AL-AMIN & DIONNE SEARCEY
FEB. 10, 2016
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — When three girls showed up Monday at a camp for people who had fled the militant group Boko Haram, they were welcomed and offered a place to sleep.
But early Tuesday morning, as the first light spread across the sprawling camp, two of the girls blew themselves up with bombs they had been concealing, killing 58 people and wounding 78.
The victims were among the more than 50,000 people who had been forced from their homes by Boko Haram’s rampages, only to be confronted with the same horror in the very place they had sought refuge.
The episode at the Dikwa camp for displaced persons follows a pattern of murderous attacks that Boko Haram has carried out since the Nigerian military began rooting the militants from strongholds across the northern part of the country.
Yet Tuesday’s attack could have been worse. One of the would-be bombers recognized her parents and siblings in the camp and decided not to detonate her device, according to Sani Datti of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency. Instead, the girl surrendered to the authorities and warned that future attacks were being planned for the camp, according to other emergency officials.
Since taking office, President Muhammadu Buhari has made destroying Boko Haram a chief imperative. His reorganization of the military and new cooperation with countries that neighbor the north of Nigeria has proved effective. The new offensive has scattered fighters who once dominated numerous villages.
Yet while on the run in recent months, members of the group have managed to carry out assaults across the country’s north as well as across national borders that have left hundreds dead. This month, in the village of Dalori near here, Boko Haram burned homes, massacred civilians and abducted children.
The Islamist extremist group has long used suicide bombers but increasingly has deployed women and young girls. The explosives they carry are often concealed under religious gowns. Boko Haram has been shifting tactics with bombers, hiding explosives in a bag of okra in one attack, and having attackers pretend to be mentally ill.
The group has also attacked camps established for people who have fled its violence. Last fall, a bomb killed seven people at the Malkohi camp in a neighboring state.
The attack Tuesday on the Dikwa camp was apparently carried out in revenge after Nigerian soldiers had stormed a market that Boko Haram was operating in the village of Boboshe.
Soldiers killed 100 Boko Haram members during the raid, local officials said, and freed as many as 1,000 women and girls who were being held, some as sex slaves. The women and girls were taken to the Dikwa camp.
Officials have been relocating people from the camp back to home villages that have been declared safe from Boko Haram