A gravedigger heaps sand on the graves of Boko Haram victims, in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, after a previous attack. Picture: AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
A gravedigger heaps sand on the graves of Boko Haram victims, in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, after a previous attack. Picture: AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Kano — Three suicide bombers killed 19 people at a fish market in northeast Nigeria, civilian militia leaders said on Saturday, in an attack blamed on Boko Haram jihadists.

The blasts happened at about 8.30pm local time on Friday in Konduga, about 35km southeast of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.

Babakura Kolo and Musa Ari, from the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) assisting Nigeria’s military against the Islamists, said the bombers were all men.

“We have 19 dead and about 70 others injured…. Two of the bombers attacked the Tashan Kifi fish market. Then four minutes later, a third bomber struck nearby,” said Kolo.

“The victims included 18 civilians and one soldier.

“The Tashan Kifi is an informal market which serves as an eatery, market and also hang-out for residents.”

Ari said 22 of the 70 injured were in a critical condition.

“There is no question as to who did it: Boko Haram has targeted Konduga several times.”

There was no immediate comment from the military or the police in Borno state, which has borne the brunt of the violence in Boko Haram’s nearly nine-year insurgency.

At least 20,000 people have been killed and more than 2.6-million others made homeless since 2009.

Nigeria’s military and government maintains the group is a spent force.

But suicide attacks and raids persist, with civilians in hard-to-reach rural areas and outlying towns at risk.

On January 31, two female suicide bombers blew themselves up at Mandarari village, near Konduga.

The blasts happened shortly after another bomber killed four and injured 44 at a displaced persons’ camp in Dalori, 22km away on the same road to Maiduguri.

A fourth bomber also blew herself up outside the camp.

Rural communities elsewhere in Nigeria are at the mercy not of Islamist insurgents, but marauding bandits.

Earlier in the week, dozens of people were killed when an armed gang opened fire on traders and locals in Birani village in the northern Nigerian state of Zamfara, where previous bloody clashes have been blamed on cattle rustlers and kidnapping gangs.

Rural communities in the region have long been plagued by cattle thieves, who kill villagers, loot and torch homes, prompting locals to form vigilante groups to defend themselves.

Police said 18 people died in the violence but according to locals the death toll was more than twice that.

“We buried 41 people yesterday (Thursday) as a result of the attack from bandits who came on motorcycles, opening fire on anyone they could see,” said Lawwali Bube, from the village.

“They started by attacking a truck conveying bridesmaids and some traders. They stopped them, took out the driver and slit his throat. They then opened fire on the truck, killing everybody.

“They then set it on fire. They moved into the village by the market and opened fire.”

Zamfara police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said hunters from Birani came across a man with some suspected stolen livestock in the bush on Tuesday.

“The herder abandoned the animals and escaped into the bush. Unknown to the hunters, the cattle rustler … mobilised bandits to attack the hunters,” he said in a statement.

“On (Wednesday), the bandits ambushed the hunters in the bush and there was a clash that led to fatalities on both sides.”

Police and other security agencies had “discovered 18 dead bodies”, Shehu said.

Abdu said the community had been “under siege” from the gangs, who live in surrounding forests.

“They come, attack our villages, steal our cows, abduct our women and do all sorts of heinous things to us.” This had led to tit-for-tat attacks.

The attacks are a persistent headache for Nigeria, adding to security woes in a country already grappling with the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency.