An explosive device targeting a military patrol went off Sunday on a road in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Potiskum, setting the vehicle on fire, military and residents said.
“We have signals that there was a blast in Potiskum involving one of our operational vehicles,” said Lieutenant Lazarus Eli, spokesman for the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State.
“We are awaiting details from our unit deployed there,” he said of the explosion which happened at around 5:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Gashua road, near a prison and a bus terminal.
Residents said the blast caused chaos as people scampered for safety.
“There was a huge explosion which flung the van off the road. Before you know what was happening, it was on fire,” Lawan Mudi told AFP.
Although the exact number of soldiers inside the van was not known, Mudi spoke of “at least six soldiers in the vehicle.”
Another resident, Umar Dada, said he heard an explosion in the prison area.
“I saw billows of black smoke in the horizon with people running around for cover. Several military patrol vans rushed towards the scene with soldiers shooting in the air to clear the road of vehicles,” he added.
Potiskum, the commercial hub of Yobe state, has been hard hit by near daily attacks by Boko Haram Islamists in recent weeks, prompting a heavy army deployment.
Hundreds of residents were fleeing Sunday after three days of Islamist attacks that left at least 31 dead and many buildings destroyed.
Boko Haram has repeatedly targeted the security services as part of its insurgency across northern and central Nigeria since 2010.
Violence by the Islamist group and those blamed on security forces are believed to have killed more than 2,800 in Nigeria since 2009.