Friday, August 26, 2011

United Nations News Bulletin: Massive Bomb Hit Offices in Abuja, Nigeria; 60 Casualties, 10 Dead

Nigeria U.N. office hit by massive bomb

Updated at 7:40 a.m. Eastern

ABUJA, Nigeria - A car bomb tore through the United Nations' main office in Nigeria's capital Friday, flattening one wing of the building and leaving an unknown number of people dead.

A U.N. official in Geneva confirmed to CBS News that it was a bomb attack, and a Nigerian security official told Reuters news agency it was the result of a car bomb.

"I saw scattered bodies," said Michael Ofilaje, a UNICEF worker at the building. "Many people are dead."

He said it felt like "the blast came from the basement and shook the building."

A medical worker at the scene told Reuters at least 10 people were killed and local media said as many as 40 more were injured, but the death toll was not immediately confirmed by officials and many more victims could still be buried by rubble.

Firefighters and rescue workers at the scene of a large bomb blast at the United Nations' main office in Nigeria's capital Abuja, Aug. 26, 2011.

The building, located in the same neighborhood as the U.S. embassy and other diplomatic posts in Abuja, had a huge hole punched in it.

The building houses about 400 employees of the U.N. in Nigeria, including the majority of its offices. A local U.N. spokesman declined to comment.

Alessandra Vellucci, a spokeswoman for the U.N. office in Geneva, said the global body's offices in Abuja had been bombed.

She told The Associated Press that there was no word yet on casualties.

The building, located in the same neighborhood as the U.S. embassy and other diplomatic posts in Abuja, had a huge hole punched in it.

Local police spokesman Jimoh Moshood confirmed the blast, but said police were still investigating the cause.

Nigeria, a nation of 150 million, is split between a largely Christian south and Muslim north. In recent months, the country has faced an increasing threat from a radical Muslim sect called Boko Haram, which wants to implement a strict version of Shariah law in the nation.

The group has carried out assassinations and bombings, including the June car bombing of the national headquarters of Nigeria's federal police that killed at least two people.

Earlier this month, the commander for U.S. military operations in Africa said Boko Haram may be trying to link with two al Qaeda-linked groups in other African countries to mount joint attacks in Nigeria.

Gen. Carter Ham told AP on Aug. 17 during a visit to Nigeria that "multiple sources" indicate Boko Haram made contacts with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which operates in northwest Africa, and with al-Shabab in Somalia.

"I think it would be the most dangerous thing to happen not only to the Africans, but to us as well," Carter said.

"This is very likely the work of Boko Haram and, or, AQIM and is a serious escalation in the security situation in Nigeria," the unnamed security official told Reuters.

Deadly bomb blast rocks UN building in Abuja

On August 26, 2011

ABUJA-(AFP) – A bomb rocked the UN building in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Friday, killing a number of people, leaving others trapped and causing heavy damage, officials and witnesses said.

Some witnesses reported that the bomb occurred after a suspect rammed a car through the front gate.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but an Islamist sect known as Boko Haram has been blamed for scores of bombings in recent months.

“A number of dead people and injured have been moved in ambulances to the hospital,” police spokesman Yemi Ajayi said. “We don’t have the exact figures yet and we don’t want to guess.”

A member of security personnel speaking on condition of anonymity spoke of “many dead.”

“It looks like a suicide bombing,” the source said at the scene. “A guy drove a Honda car, forced his way through the gate and rammed into the building, and then the bomb exploded.”

One UN staff member said people were still trapped in the building that sustained heavy damage.

“I don’t know what is going on. Many people are still trapped upstairs and we need a crane to bring people down,” said the UN staffer who did not want to give her name.

Police said there was an explosion and UN officials said it was caused by a bomb.

“We spoke to our colleagues in Lagos, who confirmed that the explosion was caused by a bomb. But we have no further information for now,” a UN spokeswoman in Geneva told AFP.

A spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs meanwhile told AFP that a colleague on site had sent an SMS message to say that the explosion “appears to have come from the gate entrance to the building.”

The UN building is located in Abuja’s diplomatic zone, not far from the US Embassy.

A bomb blast that rocked national police headquarters in Abuja in June was claimed by Boko Haram.

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