Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president, narrowly avoided a deadly bomb at a re-election campaign rally in the city of Gombe on Monday.
A bomb exploded in a car park 200 yards outside a stadium just three minutes after Nigeria’s president left, witnesses said, wounding 18.
There was no claim of responsibility for Sunday’s attacks but the city has been hit by suspected Boko Haram militants in the past and suspicion was likely to fall on the Islamist group.
Initial reports suggested the blast came from a car bomb, but rescue workers and health officials later said two female suicide bombers were suspected of being behind the attack.
“We have evacuated two bodies of females we believe were suicide bombers behind the blast,” said a rescue worker, a comment backed by a medical source at Gombe State Specialist Hospital.
Mohammed Bolari, who was at the rally in the northeastern city, said the explosion happened at 3.10pm (2.10pm GMT), just three minutes after Mr Jonathan’s departure.
A local reporter who asked not to be named said: “The president had just passed the parking lot and we were trailing behind his convoy when the explosion happened… just 100 metres from the bus we were driving in.”
Mr Jonathan had been speaking to supporters of his ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as part of his bid for re-election at polls in two weeks’ time.
His appearance in the city came just a day after two blasts in the city, including one that targeted a military checkpoint. At least five people were killed.
Bolari said of the latest blast: “It is difficult to say how many people were affected because of the confused struggle by the huge crowd leaving the venue to escape for fear of another blast.”
The local reporter said that the explosion led to unrest in the city, with crowds of angry youths attacking anyone seen with any PDP signs.
“They were shouting and denouncing the president’s visit which they blamed for the attack,” he added.
“We had a difficult time passing through these crowds. At one point a crowd threw stones at our vehicle. Some reporters sustained cuts from smashed window screens.”