Girls "as young as seven or eight" reported to have carried out suicide bombing

Residents and witnesses said approximately nine people have been killed

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File photo: A woman walks past Nigerian soldiers at a checkpoint in neighbouring Nigeria, a town newly liberated from Boko Haram, Nov 2015. (AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi, File)

Two young girls have killed at least three people and wounded 17 in a suicide bomb attack at a market in Nigeria, according to reports.

The girls are believed to have been as young as seven or eight according to reports.

A spokesman from Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the explosion occurred in the north-eastern state of Maiduguri in Sunday.

Residents and witnesses said approximately nine people have been killed.

Survivor Abubakar Musa told the Associated Press that he saw several bodies - including those of soldiers guarding a nearby electric installation.

Police spokesman Victor Isuku confirmed two explosions minutes apart on Sunday morning and blamed the Boko Haram Islamic extremist group - whose birthplace is Maiduguri.

Boko Haram Islamists have been waging an insurgency for seven years in the region in an effort to establish an Islamic state.

The jihadists have frequently targeted crowded areas - such as markets, places of worship and refugee camps - in suicide bomb attacks across northeast Nigeria and in neighbouring Cameroon and Niger.

The seven-year uprising has killed more than 20,000 people, forced 2.6 million from their homes and created a massive humanitarian crisis.

Nigeria's army has pushed the militant group back to its stronghold in the vast Sambisa forest in the past few months but the group still stages suicide bombings.