DAMATURU, Nigeria – Suspected Islamic extremists struck two state capitals in northeastern Nigeria on Monday, with twin blasts at a crowded market and the destruction of a police base.
Rescue workers were trying to evacuate the dead and wounded from the Maiduguri market, the same one where two female suicide bombers killed at least 70 people a week ago, said trader Bala Dauda.
"I can't say how many were killed or injured but 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.
Monday's blasts also were caused by "two girls," said witness Mallam Muhammadu.
Police spokesman Gideon Jubrin said it's too early to give a toll in Maiduguri.
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.
In Damaturu, explosions and gunfire erupted before dawn Monday causing some residents to flee into the bush and others to cower in their homes. Damaturu, the provincial capital of Yobe state, is some 85 miles west of Maiduguri, which is the capital of Borno state.
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.
The Defense Ministry headquarters said a fighter jet was repelling the attackers. A helicopter gunship was hovering over the town.
"We are still under fire," Premium Times news website quoted Yobe state police Commissioner Marcus Danladi as saying. "Kindly sympathize with us. There is nothing I can tell you now."
Civil servant Abdullahi Abba said his family was hiding in the bush. "We've been hearing these gunshots and bombs since the early hours and felt unsafe staying at home." He said they hoped to trek to the nearby town of Tarmuwa.
"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 cease fire 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.