Blasts at bus station near Nigeria capital kill 71

The explosions rocked the Nyanya station roughly five kilometres south of Abuja and destroyed some 30 vehicles.


Afp April 14, 2014
Vehicles burn after an attack in Abuja on April 14, 2014. Twin blasts at a bus station packed with morning commuters on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital killed dozens of people on April 14, in what appeared to be the latest attack by Boko Haram militants. The explosions rocked the Nyanya station roughly five kilometres (three miles) south of Abuja at 6:45 am (0545 GMT) and destroyed some 30 vehicles, mostly large passenger buses, officials and an AFP reporter said. PHOTO: AFP

ABUJA: Twin blasts at a bus station packed with morning commuters on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital killed 71 people and wounded 124 on Monday, with the president blaming the attack on Boko Haram militants.

The explosions rocked the Nyanya station roughly five kilometres south of Abuja at 6:45am and destroyed some 30 vehicles, mostly large passenger buses, officials and an AFP reporter said.

It was the deadliest single attack ever to hit Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory, which includes Abuja and surrounding areas. National police spokesperson Frank Mba confirmed the death toll and the number of injured.

The head of search and rescue operations at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Charles Otegbade, said one of the blasts "emanated from a vehicle" within the station but the precise nature of the explosion was not immediately clear.

Visiting the site, President Goodluck Jonathan vowed that Nigeria would overcome the brutal insurgency being waged by Boko Haram, blamed for killing thousands across the north and centre of the country since 2009.


"The issue of Boko Haram is quite an ugly history within this period of our own development," Jonathan said. "But we will get over it ... The issue of Boko Haram is temporary."


The militants have attacked Nigeria's capital in the past, most prominently in a 2011 car bombing at the UN headquarters in the city that killed at least 26 people.

"Dozens of people were killed in the bomb blasts in Nyanya bus park this morning," NEMA spokeperson Manzo Ezekiel told AFP, adding that witnesses reported hearing two separate explosions.

The explosions left a hole roughly four feet (1.2 metres) deep and scattered personal items as well as human flesh across the compound, an AFP reporter and witnesses said.

"I saw bodies taken away in open trucks," said witness Yakubu Mohammed. "It is difficult to count them because the bodies were burnt and in pieces."

A second witness, Suleiman Aminu, said he believed the initial blast came from a minibus parked near larger commuter vehicles, and that commuters who had queued up to board were the likely target.

Nyanya is a densely populated suburb of Abuja, filled with government and civil society workers who cannot afford the city's exorbitant rents.

Boko Haram violence has cost more than 1,500 lives already this year, but most of the unrest has affected villages in the remote northeast.

The military in May of last year launched a massive offensive to crush the Islamist uprising and has described Boko Haram as being in disarray and on the defensive.

A major attack in the capital, just a few kilometres from the seat of government, will likely cast further doubt on the success of that campaign.

Bus parks have been among Boko Haram's most favoured targets, including multiple, coordinated bombings at a terminal in the northern city of Kano last year that killed more than 40 people.

Rebels based in the southern oil-producing Niger Delta region have also claimed attacks in the capital, notably a car bombing on independence day in 2010.

But most analysts describe that group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), as being largely defunct.

The explosion on Monday "affected quite a number of people because it was still early in the morning and there was a lot of traffic," Otegbade told reporters at the scene.

The private Channels television news network showed images of thick black smoke billowing out from the station.

Jonathan, expected to face a tough re-election battle next February, has faced mounting criticism of the continuing Boko Haram violence.

An escalation of violence in or near Abuja would pile further pressure on the embattled president.

Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, has in recent video messages vowed to widen his insurgency outside the group's northeastern stronghold.

Following Monday's attack, police chief Mohammed Abubakar ordered officers "to intensify surveillance on all vulnerable targets within Abuja," Mba said.


But a temporary security crackdown will not be enough to repair Jonathan's declining credibility on the Boko Haram conflict, according to Adetokunbo Mumuni of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project.


The latest bombings should serve as a reminder that the government's counter-insurgency strategy is "inadequate and simply not working," he said in a statement.


Experts warn that force alone cannot stem the bloodshed and have called for a major outreach to dejected and deeply impoverished youths from the north who fill Boko Haram's ranks.

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