Workers pick up items at the scene of a bombing in Kaduna.
Photo by Reuters
At least 82 people have been killedin two suicide
bombings in the north Nigerian city of Kaduna, one aimed at
opposition leader and ex-president Muhammadu Buhari and another
at a moderate Muslim cleric about to lead a crowd in prayer.
The attacks bore the hallmarks of Islamist militant group
Boko Haram, which considers all those who do not share its
views to be enemies. But it may also have been linked to
politics before the 2015 elections.
In the deadliest attack, a bomber in a car full of explosives
hurtled towards Buhari's convoy at the crowded Kawo market,
his son told Reuters on the scene and police said later. A
Red Cross official said at least 50 people were killed there.
Buhari was the main opposition party contender against
President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 election and remains
a key figure in the opposition alliance. He was riding in an
armour-plated sport utility vehicle and was not wounded.
A crowd gathered at the scene of the explosion until the
military dispersed them by firing shots in the air. Smoke
rose from another vehicle destroyed in the blast.
"When I came out of my car I saw many dead bodies littered
around," Buhari said in a statement, calling the attack "mass
murder" and "clearly an assassination attempt".
Earlier, a suicide bomber on foot, targeting a moderate
cleric, killed at least 32 of his congregation on a busy
Thousands were gathered for prayers with Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi
in Murtala Muhammed square. When his convoy pulled up, the
bomber lunged at him before being stopped by his private
security, witnesses and police commissioner Shehu Umar
Kaduna's governor, Mukhtar Yero, declared a 24-hour curfew in
the city until further notice and condemned the bombs as "the
height of cowardice".
"The enemies of peace have visited us with their ungodly
venom of wanton destruction," he said in a statement. "Those
behind the act have no notion of God, as they have none for
the sanctity of human life."
President Jonathan in a statement called it "an odious
attempt to inflame passions and exacerbate disquiet, fear,
insecurity and sectional divisions in the country."
BOKO HARAM SUSPECTED
The bomber did not injure Bauchi, several witnesses told
Reuters. Mustafa Sani, a volunteer for Bauchi's mosque
evacuating bodies, said 32 were confirmed dead so far.
"Somebody with a bomb vest ... was blocked. He detonated the
bomb along with the person that tried to block him," the
police commissioner said, adding police had been able to
confirm 25 dead, with 14 wounded. Police later said just 14
died in the second blast, but they often give lower casualty
tolls than workers on the scene.
The military used pick-up trucks to cordon off the area.
Sirens wailed as fire engines raced to the scene.
An angry crowd started throwing stones at police, who
responded with teargas. Some followers had come from Senegal,
Chad and Niger to see the popular sheikh.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either
blast, but Boko Haram has been staging attacks, especially
with explosives, outside its northeastern heartland for the
past three months.
The main Islamic association, Jama'atu Nasril Islam, called
the bombings "acts of terror" and said Nigeria was becoming
"a theatre of loss of blood for no just cause".
The United States condemned the bombings and expressed
concern that the blasts had targeted Bauchi and Buhari.
"We call on Nigerian authorities to fully investigate these
attacks," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a
statement. "We urge all Nigerians to avoid reprisals and
continue to practice the interfaith cooperation that violent
extremists seek to undermine."
Since launching an insurgency in 2009, the militants have
often attacked clerics, such as Bauchi, who take issue with
their Salafist ideology. If Boko Haram is responsible for
Wednesday's attacks, it underscores the risks moderate
clerics take speaking out against it.
The insurgents, who are fighting to carve out an Islamic
state in Nigeria, have repeatedly targeted civilians, mostly
in remote northeastern Borno state. They killed more than
2,000 civilians during the first half of this year, Human
Rights Watch estimated a week ago.
The Islamists attacked the northeastern town of Damboa and
surrounding villages over the weekend, killing at least 50
The rebellion has been in the international spotlight since
Boko Haram fighters kidnapped more than 200 girls from a
school in the northeastern village of Chibok on April 14.
Jonathan met parents of the abducted girls, and some other
girls who had escaped, for the first time on Tuesday.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau last week claimed
responsibility for two explosions on June 25 at a fuel depot
in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial hub, that killed at least two
A military offensive since May last year that was meant to
dismantle their hold on the northeast has caused the
militants to react in two ways: brutal attacks on civilians
in the region have surged dramatically, and efforts to strike
out in areas far from the rebel strongholds have resumed.
A blast in the central city of Jos, 170km east of Kaduna,
killed 118 people in May.