Deadly Attacks Tied to Islamist Militants Shake Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria — Dozens were killed, including many children watching a soccer match, in a series of deadly bomb blasts in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Saturday, officials said. The Islamist group Boko Haram was blamed for the attacks, which were the deadliest in months in the sect’s birthplace.

Gunmen from the group also struck a nearby village, Mainok, at the same time Saturday evening, a local official said, storming in on trucks, burning houses and killing at least 51. The death toll from the two attacks was more than 100 and rising, officials said.

In the Maiduguri bombings, children bore the brunt of the explosions, according to the health commissioner for Borno State, Dr. Salma Anas-Kolo. The youths had gathered at a makeshift stadium in the Gomari neighborhood to watch a soccer match when a bomb went off in a pickup truck loaded with firewood, she and others said.

When people in the densely inhabited neighborhood rushed to help, a second bomb exploded, according to Maikaramba Saddiq, the Maiduguri representative of Nigeria’s Civil Liberties Organization.

Mr. Saddiq said about 50 children had been killed. The explosions were powerful; Mr. Saddiq and others said they heard them from miles away.

In the Mainok attack, the senator who represents Borno in the Nigerian Senate, Ahmed Zanna, said a Nigerian military plane had mistakenly bombed fleeing villagers, killing many. Nigeria’s military spokesman did not respond to calls Sunday night.

In Maiduguri, “many kids were affected,” Dr. Anas-Kolo said.

A hospital official in Maiduguri, who watched as charred corpses were brought in, said: “Most of the bodies we found were very young. Small. I saw a man who lost three children.” The official asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation and his position at the hospital. “There is so much of a crowd coming in now to check for their people,” he said.

More than 400 people have been killed in Maiduguri and the surrounding area in less than a month as Boko Haram intensifies its campaign against civilians. The group’s mission, over the course of a nearly five-year insurrection, is mysterious, beyond a generalized goal of destabilizing the Nigerian state.

In that aim, it appears to be increasingly successful, with a military unable to stop its repeated attacks despite an extensive mobilization in the country’s sprawling northeast, where Nigeria borders Cameroon, Chad and Niger in the semidesert terrain of the Sahel region.

Pressure is increasing on the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to halt the attacks. But both the Nigerian government and the military appear to be at a loss about how to do so.

The military has been faulted for adopting too passive an approach, failing to staff guard posts, taking hours to respond or sometimes even running away in the face of the attacks, as citizens have reported to the Nigerian news media in recent weeks.

That scenario appears to have been repeated in the Mainok attack Saturday night, about 40 miles from Maiduguri, according to Mr. Zanna.

“The villagers were calling the security, telling them these people” — the Boko Haram — “were coming,” Mr. Zanna said. “They are approaching our village. But nothing” — no military — “was coming, so most ran into bush.”

When the Boko Haram entered the village, “they burned the houses and killed anyone sight,” Mr. Zanna said.

In running into the bush to escape, Mr. Zanna said, a Nigerian military plane “bombed them.”

“Maybe they mistook them for the Boko Haram,” he said. “It was very bloody.”

Sunday night, Maiduguri was in shock, officials said. The Gomari neighborhood “is a devastated area,” Mr. Saddiq said. “Everything has been destroyed.”

“People are very shocked and scared,” Dr. Anas-Kolo said. “People feel that these Boko Haram can just come attack, and the military people are never there,” she said.