A female suicide bomber thought to be as young as seven has blown herself up killing five people at a market in north eastern Nigeria.

The young girl, who had explosives strapped to her, detonated the bomb at a security checkpoint in the town of Potiskum.

Witnesses say she refused to be searched at the gate to the market and after an ensuing argument, she let off the bomb, killing five others and injuring 19 people.

They added she appeared to be as young as seven years old and is the latest in a string of child suicide bombers in Nigeria.

Local vigilante leader Buba Lawan said: ‘We sent her back four times, because given her age, she did not have anything to do in the market.

‘When we were screening people, she bent and tried to pass under the ropes, some distance from our view. That was when the explosives went off.’

It is the second such suicide attack around the same market, where new and second-hand mobile phones are sold and repaired.

Nobody has so far claimed responsibility for the bombing, which bore the hallmarks of Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which has been terrorising Nigeria.

The use of female suicide bombers, sometimes young girls, has been a common tactic of Boko Haram since last year, as have revenge attacks on civilians when the group is under pressure.

Nigeria’s military – west Africa’s largest – has faced repeated criticism for failing to end the Islamist insurgency, as well as allegations of human rights abuses.

Soldiers have complained of a lack of adequate weapons and even refused to deploy to take on the better-armed rebels.

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