At least 18 people were killed in three separate suicide bomb attacks in Damaturu, northeast Nigeria, on Wednesday, the country’s National Emergency Management Agency said.
The blasts came after Boko Haram militants this week claimed to have carried out three suicide attacks on the outskirts of the capital, Abuja, last Friday that left 18 dead and 41 injured.
Suspicion will likely fall on the Islamist rebels, who have repeatedly attacked Damaturu during their bloody, six-year insurgency.
Last month, a girl thought to be aged 12 killed six and injured 47 when the explosives she was carrying went off outside a bus station in the Yobe state capital.
NEMA coordinator for Yobe state Bashir Idris Garga said the first blast happened at a small food store at a housing estate, killing four.
Another near a mosque killed one, while nine, including a family, lost their lives when another bomber exploded at a Fulani settlement on the outskirts of the city.
“Total injured 10, seven partially injured and three critically injured,” Garga said in a text message.
Boko Haram has reverted to attacking “soft” civilian targets after last year’s land grab that saw it seize towns and villages across Yobe and neighbouring Borno and Adamawa states.
Nigeria’s military has claimed a series of successes against the insurgents and on Wednesday claimed to have killed scores of rebel fighters during clashes with troops south of Damaturu.
Army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman said fighters attempted to attack a battalion of soldiers in Goniri, some 60 kilometres by road southeast of Damaturu, in the early hours of Wednesday.
“During the encounter our gallant troops successfully repelled the attacked and inflicted heavy casualty on the invading terrorists as all of them were killed,” he said in a statement.
“On the last count over 100 terrorists bodies were seen.”
Seven soldiers were killed and nine others injured in the fighting, which also saw troops recover arms and ammunition, including primed improvised explosive devices.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has set his military commanders a three-month deadline to early November to end the violence, which has left at least 17,000 dead since 2009.
But he has conceded that bomb and suicide attacks in urban areas could continue. More than 1,260 people have been killed since he took office on May 29, according to an AFP tally.
Boko Haram has meanwhile continued to attack neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
On Tuesday, 11 soldiers were killed and 13 injured in a Boko Haram attack on Chadian positions across the border; 17 insurgents were also killed in the pre-dawn strike, Chad’s army said.
Suicide attacks on Sunday in the city of Diffa, southeast Niger, killed a gendarme and five civilians.