Friday, December 31, 2010

Many Dead in Nigerian Bomb Blasts in Market Place, Army Barracks

Many dead in Nigeria market blast

State televison says at least 30 people killed in capital Abuja after explosion in busy market area near army barracks

Last Modified: 31 Dec 2010 20:41 GMT

The blast occurred at Mammy market close to the Sani Abacha army barrack

At least 30 people have been killed in an explosion at a market in Nigeria's capital Abuja, state television has reported.

The blast occurred at Mammy market on Friday close to the Sani Abacha army barracks, a busy area where people meet to eat and shop.

A witness said he was approaching the market to join New Year's Eve celebrations when he heard the explosion.

"People ran in different directions. There were scores of bodies - dead and wounded. They used army trucks to pack them away," Eric, who regularly uses the market, said.

Continued violence

Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Abuja, said the attack had struck people who had gathered for dinner and drinks to welcome the new year.

"When the explosion ripped through the market, as you can imagine, it sent people scattering," she said. "Now the question really is ... what could've motivated this attack, who could've been behind it".

The military have been "extremely guarded" in what information they have so far released about the attack.

Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president, linked the attack to the bombings on December 24 in the central city of Jos, which sparked a week of violence.

At least 80 people were killed in ensuing violence between Christian and Muslim residents.

Friday's attack came as police detained 92 suspected members of the Islamic Boko Haram group.

While some point the finger at Boko Haram, others believe that the bombing may be connected to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which claims to be fighting for a Nigeria to have a greater share of its oil wealth, Ndege said.

A police spokesman said on Friday that Boko Haram, which is thought to oppose Western education and culture, was behind the deaths of at least 16 people in three attacks this week in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

Nigeria was also rocked by car bomb attacks in Abuja in October, for which responsibility was claimed by a group opposing the government in the oil-producing Niger Delta, where there has been a recent resurgence in violence.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Bomb explodes at army barracks in Nigeria

BASHIR ADIGUN, Associated Press, JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press

Published: 02:23 p.m., Friday, December 31, 2010

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — A bomb blast tore through a beer garden at a Nigerian army barracks where revelers had gathered to celebrate New Year's Eve, witnesses said, and state-run television reported Friday that 30 people died, though police immediately disputed that.

A local police spokesman said the blast occurred at about 7:30 p.m. Friday in Abuja, the capital of Africa's most populous nation.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion in this oil-rich nation where citizens remain uneasy after bombings at other locations had killed dozens of people several days earlier.

"It's unfortunate that some people planted (a) bomb where people are relaxing because of the new year," Air Marshal Oluseyi Petirin told journalists. "Nobody has been able to give accurate figures (of casualties), but we have rescued some people."

An anchor on the state-run Nigerian Television Authority gave a death toll of 30 to viewers Friday night. The channel did not give an estimate on the number of injured.

Local police spokesman Jimoh Moshood immediately disputed the figure, saying only four people had died and 13 were wounded. Death tolls remain contentious in Nigeria, as politicians often inflate or shrink tolls to suit their aspirations.

Witnesses said the market appeared full at the time of the blast. A local journalist at the scene told The Associated Press that soldiers carried injured people away, with one officer saying he feared there were fatalities.

In the minutes after the explosion, police and soldiers swarmed the area, blocking onlookers from entering the area. Later, an AP journalist saw police carrying out covered bodies and putting them in the back of police vehicles. Officers shouted at each other to keep the bodies covered and hidden from onlookers.

The base, called the Mogadishu Cantonment, includes an area of market stalls and beer parlors referred to locally as a "mammy market." There, civilians and soldiers regularly gather for drinks and its famous barbecued fish.

The blasts come days after a similar attack struck a nation that remains uneasily divided between Christians and Muslims. On Christmas Eve, three bombs exploded in the central Nigerian city of Jos, killing dozens of people. That area has seen more than 500 die in religious and ethnic violence this year alone.

Members of a radical Muslim sect attacked two churches in the northern city of Maiduguri the same night, killing at least six people.

The sect, known locally as Boko Haram, later claimed responsibility for both attacks in an Internet message. Police say they are still investigating those attacks.

Boko Haram means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language. Its members re-emerged recently after starting a July 2009 riot that led to a security crackdown that left 700 people dead.

The Christmas Eve killings in Jos and Maiduguri add to the tally of thousands who already have died in Nigeria in the last decade over religious and political tension. The bombings also come as the nation prepares for what could be a tumultuous presidential election in April.

This isn't the first time Nigeria's typically quiet capital has seen violence this year. A dual car bombing killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens more during an Oct. 1 independence celebration in the capital. The main militant group in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a statement, a spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan said whoever planted the bomb wanted "to turn the joys of fellow Nigerians to ashes."

"This is extreme evil. It is wicked. It defies all that we believe in and stand for as a nation," the statement from Ima Niboro read.

It added: "They must be made to pay. No one, and we repeat, no one, can make this nation ungovernable."

Nigeria, an OPEC-member nation, remains a vital supplier of easily refined crude oil to the U.S. Unrest in the West African nation has affected oil prices in the past. Beyond that, Western diplomats worry ethnic, religious and political violence could hobble the nation of 150 million people forever just as it adjusts to democracy after years of military dictatorships and coups.

Jon Gambrell reported from Lagos, Nigeria.

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