(Abuja) A car bomb exploded on a busy road in Nigeria’s capital, killing at least 12 people days before the city is to host a major international economic forum. The bomb exploded late yesterday near a checkpoint across the road from a busy bus station in Abuja where a massive explosion on April 14 killed at least 75 people.
That blast was claimed by the Islamic extremist Boko Hararm terrorist network. Yesterday’s bomb comes days before Abuja is to host the World Economic Forum on Africa, with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as a guest.
The government is deploying 6,000 police to protect the event, from May 7-9, which attracts world leaders, philanthropists and business leaders to discuss Africa’s economic growth prospects.
Civil defence corps spokesman Emmanuel Okeh said rescuers with ambulances and fire engines rushed to the scene of the blast on May Day, a public holiday in the West African nation.
Twelve people have been killed and 19 wounded are in the hospitals, according to Superintendent Frank Mba, the national police spokesman. He said six cars were burnt up.
Witnesses said a car laden with explosives drove close to the checkpoint and a man jumped out and ran as it blew up.
A deafening explosion was followed by smaller ones as other cars caught fire and fuel ignited, they said.
Queues of traffic are normal at the checkpoint where soldiers and police search vehicles since the bombing two weeks ago.
Two unexploded IEDs were found at the scene, according to a security official. Islamic militants in Nigeria often time secondary explosions to target rescuers and others drawn to a bombing.
While there was no immediate claim for yesterday’s bombing, it bears all the hallmarks of Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful”.
The group wants to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, which it claims would halt crippling corruption that keeps 70 percent of the people in Africa’s richest nation impoverished.
Hours after the April 14 car bombing, which wounded at least 141 people, Boko Haram militants kidnapped more than 250 teenage girls at a school in the remote north-east, which is their stronghold.
About 50 of the girls escaped their captors, but 200 remain missing in a growing embarrassment for Nigeria’s government and military.
The attacks have undermined government and military assurances that the Islamic extremists had been contained in a north-eastern corner of the country.
Every time the military trumpets a success against the militants, they step up the tempo and deadliness of attacks. More than 1,500 people have died in the Islamic uprising this year, compared to 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.
President Goodluck Jonathan told a May Day rally in Abuja earlier yesterday that the perpetrators must be brought justice.
“We shall triumph over all this evil that wants to debase our humanity or obstruct our progress as a nation,” he vowed. “Those who want to re-define our country to be seen as a country of chaos will never succeed.”
Last week, he assured the Chinese ambassador that the hundreds of delegates expected at the World Economic Forum on Africa “will not have a problem with security during the summit”.
Abuja, in the heart of the country and far from Boko Haram’s northeastern stronghold, had remained relatively peaceful since a 2011 suicide car bombing of the local U.N. headquarters that killed 21 people and wounded 60.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and is the continent’s most populous nation. Its 170 million people are almost equally divided between Christians and Muslims.
The uprising poses the greatest threat to Nigeria’s cohesion and security and imperils nearby countries where its fighters have gone to train. Fighters from Chad, Cameroon and Niger have been found among extremists in Nigeria.
In May 2013, Mr Jonathan declared a state of emergency and deployed thousands of troops to the north-east after the extremists took control of entire towns and villages.
Security forces quickly forced the insurgents out of urban areas but have been fighting to dislodge them from hideouts in forests and mountain caves along the border with Cameroon and Chad.
Near-daily air bombardments of that area have halted since the girls and young women were abducted.