Deadly blasts rock Nigeria
ABUJA – At least eight people have been killed in explosions in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, marring celebrations to mark 50 years of independence from Britain.
Police confirmed that two blasts outside the justice ministry were caused by car bombs.
Earlier, the militant group Mend (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) had threatened to target the festivities.
The bombs went off not far from Eagle Square, where the Nigerian elite had gathered for the official celebrations, but no-one there was hurt.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who was inspecting a guard of honour at the time, called it a “wicked act of desperation by criminals and murderers”.
Mend issued a threat yesterday morning saying the group intended to bomb the event.
In the message, the group which is demanding a fairer distribution of the country’s oil revenues, said there was “nothing worth celebrating after 50 years of failure”.
Mend had warned that it had planted several explosive devices. In the email, the group addressed Nigeria’s dignitaries saying the country had nothing to celebrate on its anniversary.
Mend is a loose coalition of violent groups from the oil-rich Niger Delta. Most of the group’s leaders are observing a ceasefire.
Some senior Mend figures are already dissociating themselves from these blasts, but a small faction within the group is dissatisfied with the government’s handling of an amnesty process in the Niger Delta.
It is this faction that is presumed to be behind the explosions.
If Mend militants were responsible for the blasts, it would be the first time that the group had targeted the capital.
At least one of the dead was a police officer.
A fireman at the scene told the BBC that ten bodies had been found.
The BBC’s Ahmed Idris in Abuja said he saw bloody footprints at the scene as emergency workers moved bodies into vehicles.
The two bombs went off about five minutes apart. Police said the bombs appeared timed to do most damage to those who responded to the first blast.
“There were more casualties at the second explosion because the first explosion drew crowds to the scene, which is close to the second explosion,” an intelligence officer told AFP news agency. (BBC)