There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram was suspected. Maiduguri was the birthplace of Boko Haram and has been the scene of numerous attacks by the group’s fighters in the past seven years.
In recent weeks, the Nigerian military’s operations against the group had kept fighters out of the city center for the most part and residents had been starting to look ahead to a possible end of the long war with the militants.
But the attack Thursday, which also wounded more than a dozen people, shattered the city’s fragile sense of calm.
The bomber, who was riding a tricycle taxi, was stopped around noon outside a heavily guarded complex of government offices in the city center, officials said. He then set off his explosives, killing two police officers and at least four other people.
Tricycle taxis — yellow, motorized and covered — have replaced motorbikes, which the government banned in the city several years ago because Boko Haram was using them for drive-by shootings and suicide attacks.
The attack came a day after two separate bombings in the area, witnesses said. The first was at a mosque and killed only the bomber, but the second killed four people.
The Nigerian Army said in a statement that the situation in Maiduguri had “reinforced the need for more security consciousness and awareness on the part of all of us.”
“The remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists and their sympathizers still mingle with the society,” the statement said.