The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) armed group has claimed responsibility for an explosion that it said killed or injured 30 people at a market where alcohol was sold in Nigeria’s Taraba state, marking an expansion of the area where the ISIL affiliate operates in the country.
The explosion took place on Tuesday in the rural town of Iware and local police initially said three people were killed and 19 injured. They could not immediately be reached on Thursday to comment on the ISWAP claim or casualty count.
In a statement posted late on Wednesday on a Telegram messaging channel used by ISWAP, the group described those who detonated the bomb in the market as “soldiers of the caliphate in central Nigeria”.
The statement said the attack had struck “a gathering of infidel Christians” and expressed satisfaction that the drinking spot had been damaged. It did not break down the casualty figure into dead and injured.
Northeast Nigeria has been in the grip of rebellions for more than a decade, but Taraba, located at the eastern end of Nigeria’s central region, has not witnessed such attacks before.
Across Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, there has been a rise in crime and violence, exacerbated by the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Armed robberies are rife and kidnappings for ransom have become increasingly common, while the country’s northwest has been hit by mass abductions of children from schools as well as indiscriminate attacks on towns and villages by armed gangs.
The worst and longest-running security crisis, however, remains the one in the northeast, where Boko Haram and ISWAP, which broke out of the former, have killed, abducted and looted on a massive scale while fighting against the Nigerian military.