ABUJA: A suicide bomb blast rocked the UN compound in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Friday, killing at least 18 people, blowing out much of the building and marking a sharp escalation in a wave of attacks.
The bomb went off after a suspect forced his way through two security gates and rammed the car into the building. The first two floors were blown out and rescue workers scrambled to help those left inside.
A man claiming to be a spokesman for the Nigerian sect known as Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to AFP and threatened further violence. The veracity of his claims could not be confirmed.
“Through the wisdom of Allah, we have launched the attack with absolute precision,” the man who identified himself as Abu Darda said in the call. “The attack was carefully scripted and executed. We have said it several times that the UN is one of our prime targets.”
Boko Haram has been blamed for scores of bombings in recent months in Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer.
Such attacks, however, have not targeted international organisations, and Friday’s bomb marked a new level of audaciousness.
“So far, we have 18 dead,” Mike Zuokumor, police commissioner for the Federal Capital Territory told journalists.
At least 60 wounded were being treated at the national hospital, a radio report said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2011.
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The suicide attack on the UN House in Abuja on 26 August 2011 is a clear indication that the capacity of the Boko Haram to mount devastating attacks has improved tremendously over the last three years. As a close observer of the activities of the sect, I had consistently warned that this is coming, and the attack on the UN only marks a shift in the nature of their target from government institutions to international organization. In may article "The Audacity of the Boko Haram", I stated that the sect will embrace suicide bombing, even before the attack on the Police Headquarters on 16 June 2011. With unlimited vulnerable targets such as the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, Ministries (buildings) and even the National Hospital, the sect has an avalanche of targets to pick and chose which one to attack. The Nigerian government must act decisively now to arrest the trend. Vulnerability and risk assessment (VRA) must be carried out on all vital and strategic buildings, installations and infrastructure with a view to putting in place effective protective measures to prevent future successful attacks and bloodshed.