At least three people have died in so-called suicide attacks at a market in Maiduguri, Nigeria on Sunday. The girls involved in the attack in the capital city of Borno State were said by local sources to have been around seven or eight years-old.

Residents said the attack had killed nine people, according to Reuters, and a further 17 had been injured. Though Boko Haram had not immediately claimed the attack, local reports said it had "all the hallmarks" of the Islamic fundamentalists who have been responsible for a number of attacks in the area.

Speaking to Nigeria's Guardian a local militia member, named by the news outlet as Jabo, said he saw the girls before the attack. He said: "They got out of a rickshaw and walked right in front of me without showing the slightest sign of emotion.

"I tried to speak with one of them, in Hausa and in English, but she didn't answer. I thought they were looking for their mother," he added.

"She headed toward the poultry sellers, and then detonated her explosives belt."

The city is considered to be at the heart of Boko Haram's insurgency, which aims to establish an Islamic state in the country. The north west of Nigeria, and particularly Borno State has been one of the most affected regions by the islamist militant's campaign.

Suicide attacks on crowded areas such as markets and places of worship are commonly deployed by Boko Haram, and particularly kidnapping and using women and young girls to carry them out. Approximately 15,000 people are thought to have been killed by the militant group, labelled by the Institute of Economics and Peace as the world's deadliest terror group.

On Friday at least 45 people died and 33 others were wounded in another double suicide attack carried out by female bombers in the northeast city of Madagali, Adamawa state.

Boko Haram
Women travel in the back of a truck in the town of Mararaba, after the Nigerian military recaptured it from Boko Haram, in Adamawa state REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye