Boko Haram suspected after suicide blast, prison break in Nigeria

Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) - A suicide bombing at a Shiite ceremony killed at least 15 people in northeastern Nigeria on Monday while 132 inmates were at large after a daring prison break.

The attack in Potiskum, the commercial capital of Yobe state, targeted Shia Muslims marking Ashura, the anniversary of the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

The prison break saw gunmen use dynamite to blast into the facility in central Kogi state late on Sunday, more than two years after Boko Haram launched an attack at the same site.

Meanwhile in Adamawa state, also northeast Nigeria, tens of thousands of people fled their homes to refugee camps after the militants seized control of the commercial hub of Mubi, the latest among more than two dozen towns and villages to have fallen into extremist hands.

Former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, who is running to be the opposition flag bearer in February polls and is from the northeast, voiced disbelief that "a handful of terrorists" had been able to capture such a huge stretch of land.

The three incidents underscored the worsening security crisis in Nigeria, and cast further doubt on government claims that a ceasefire was in place to end five years of Boko Haram violence.

Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, on Friday dismissed government assertions of a ceasefire and peace talks as "a lie."

He also claimed that the 219 schoolgirls kidnapped in mid-April, whose plight caught world attention, had all converted to Islam and been "married off".

- Ashura attack -

In Potiskum, police and witnesses said a bomb went off 10 metres (32 feet) from a seminary where Shia worshippers had gathered.

"We lost 15 of our members in a suicide blast at the end of our Ashura procession," the head of the city's Shiite community, Mustapha Lawan Nasidi, told AFP.

Fifty people were also injured, he said, adding that several others died when troops who deployed to the scene opened fire. There was no immediate response from the military.

Potiskum has seen repeated violence, including attacks on the Shiite community who are hugely outnumbered by Sunnis in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north.

- Prison break -

In Kogi, national police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu said unidentified gunmen blew up the prison with explosives late on Sunday, allowing scores to escape.

Jacob Edi, spokesman for Kogi's Governor Idris Wada, added: "There were 145 prisoners at the time of the attack.

"One died, eight have been recaptured and four surrendered voluntarily. The rest are at large."

Kogi is far south of Boko Haram's main area of operations but the Islamists claimed a prison raid at the same facility in 2012 that freed more than 100 inmates.

Many of the group's fighters were thought to have been held at the targeted Koton Karfi prison.

Ojukwu said the raid was not linked to the five-year Islamist uprising, blaming it instead on "criminal activity."

Nevertheless, Boko Haram has been tied to several high-profile prison breaks since 2010 and listed a prisoner swap as a condition for the release of the schoolgirls who were seized from the northeast town of Chibok on April 14.

- Mubi overrun -

In Adamawa, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said they had recorded at least 10,496 internally displaced people in five camps in the state capital, Yola, after violence in Mubi.

Thousands of residents from Mubi, which is Adamawa's second-largest town, have fled in the past week after Boko Haram's take-over last Wednesday.

Mubi, which is 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Yola and has a population of 150,000, had been a safe haven for people fleeing Boko Haram offensives in surrounding areas.

"How is it possible that a great nation like Nigeria should find itself in a situation where a handful of terrorists is able to invade a town as large as Mubi," Abubakar told reporters.

He said that despite a reported increase in security spending, the military in Africa's most populous country has proved "unable to cope and unable to defend," against a formerly small-scale insurgency.

Nigerian soldiers reportedly fled to the town of Hong, 100 kilometres from Yola, according to residents who saw them en route.

Some residents are trapped in Mubi, including Saleh Abdullahi said Boko Haram "came with their women and children and are now in firm control".

"They move about in vehicles and on foot patrolling the streets and keep telling people we are now under the authority of an Islamic state," Abdullahi said.

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