MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA — Three suicide bombers set ablaze three fuel tankers in the center of Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri before dawn Friday, officials said, just days before a planned visit by the U.N. Security Council.
The attack, outside a gas station opposite the northeastern headquarters of the Central Bank of Nigeria, killed the three bombers, said Abdulkadir Ibrahim, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency.
Officials blamed Boko Haram insurgents who many times have attacked Maiduguri, the birthplace of Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremist group.
Ibrahim said fires caused by the explosions were under control. One bomber exploded beside a stationary tanker loaded with fuel, killing the two accomplices and setting ablaze two other tankers, Ibrahim said.
“We are lucky. Today could have been another sad day for us in Maiduguri,” police commissioner Damian Chukwu told reporters at the scene.
Chukwu said he and others assumed the attackers’ intended destination was just down the road — a depot storing fuel that has been targeted many times in the past.
The attack comes just days before the U.N. Security Council is expected in Maiduguri as part of a four-nation tour of countries in the Lake Chad Basin devastated by the seven-year Boko Haram uprising that has killed more than 20,000.
The uprising also has left 2.6 million homeless and created what the U.N. has called the continent’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 5 million people in urgent need of food aid.
Council members began their tour Friday in Cameroon, the headquarters of a multinational force that in the past year has driven Boko Haram out of towns and villages where the extremists had set up an Islamic caliphate. But suicide bombings and attacks on remote villages and military outposts continue.