ABUJA : A car bombing at a bus station on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital killed at least 19 people and injured 80, officials said Friday, just weeks after Boko Haram Islamists attacked the same spot.
The explosion rocked the crowded Nyanya bus terminal just a few kilometres from central Abuja at roughly 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) on Thursday, 50 metres from the site of an April 14 bombing that killed at least 75 people. The April attack was the deadliest ever in Nigeria’s capital and raised security concerns about a World Economic Forum (WEF) summit set for Abuja next week, which includes a visit from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
‘Our existing security arrangements are robust,’ WEF said in a statement about the conference dubbed the ‘African Davos’.
‘There are no plans to make any changes to the programme or content of the meeting,’ it added, offering sympathy for the victims. Rescue agencies struggled to reach the blast site late Thursday due to choking traffic that built up after the blast and emergency work was complicated by darkness at the station, which was very poorly lit after sundown.
Police spokesman Frank Mba told journalists that 19 people had been confirmed dead, while the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesman Manzo Ezekiel told AFP that 80 others were injured. Three undetonated explosive devices were discovered at the scene, Mba said, suggesting the toll could have been much higher had the other bombs gone off. NEMA chief Muhammad Sani Sidi has said that victims were being treated at several Abuja area hospitals and complete casualty figures were still being gathered.
Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau, wanted as a global terrorist by the United States, has claimed responsibility for the April 14 bombing and suspicion for Thursday’s blast immediately fell on the extremist group which has killed thousands in a five-year uprising. Babangida Bello told AFP he was selling oranges at Nyanya when he ‘suddenly heard a loud explosion’ which caused panic at the station that services commuters who work in central Abuja but cannot afford the city’s exorbitant rents.
‘Everybody was confused,’ he said, adding that he saw a nearby drink-seller running for safety before flying shrapnel hit him in the head. NEMA’s Sidi said a car packed with explosives caused the blast and witnesses identified a small white Volkswagen as the vehicle in question. ‘The explosion was from the white car. I saw fire, burning and dead bodies scattered everywhere,’ said Victor Okeyode, a driver at the station.