Nigeria questions blast suspects

2010-10-05 21:11

Abuja - Nigerian authorities were questioning on Tuesday a close aide of former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida and nine suspects in connection with independence day bombings that killed 12 people.

Babangida's election campaign chief, Raymond Dokpesi, also a Nigerian media mogul, was questioned by the state intelligence services on Monday and Tuesday.

"He was released on Monday and is to report back on Tuesday," Kassim Afegbua, Babangida's spokesperson told AFP, adding he was questioned in connection with Friday's bombings.

Nine other suspects whose identities have not yet been revealed, are being interrogated but are said to be linked to Henry Okah, an ex-militant leader arrested in South Africa for terrorism charges over the deadly blasts.

Okah was the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which claimed responsibility for the daring attacks, but said Okah had nothing to do with the twin car bomb blasts.

"Investigations are still going on," Nigeria's State Security Services (SSS) spokesperson Marilyn Ogar told AFP.

The nine were held after the October 1 blasts a few hundred metres from Nigeria's independence anniversary parade in the capital, Abuja.

Fears for his life

Okah, who lives in South Africa, was charged under that country's anti-terrorism laws and is due back in court on October 14.

A Johannesburg court on Tuesday allowed him to have his own cell at the high-risk detention facility Johannesburg Central Prison while awaiting trial.

He has expressed fears for his life from the general prison population.

"He's received information that certain senior Nigerian government officials have expressed the view that they should have killed him at the time when they had him in custody in Nigeria," his lawyer Rudi Krause told AFP in Johannesburg.

"He has very good reason to suspect that his safety would be in jeopardy."

Okah denies involvement in the attacks.

A dozen people died and 38 were wounded in the attacks, the first ever to be staged in Nigeria's administrative capital and the deadliest ever claimed by Mend.


President Goodluck Jonathan at the weekend implicated a foreign-based group, and not MEND, in the attacks.

The Friday attacks have caused anxiety in the administrative capital.

Thousands of government workers trooped out of their offices around lunchtime on Tuesday following rumours that a bomb had been planted in their office complex.

The Federal Secretariat, which houses several government ministries, is directly opposite an open square where the independence ceremonies took place last week.

Bomb disposal units checked the office block and found nothing.

"There's nothing like bombs. People are just afraid (...) I think it's a hangover from what happened on October 1," said the building's security chief Delson Kazo.

Earlier a simulation exercise was staged at the national oil firm complex in Abuja, to prepare workers there for any emergencies.

Babangida is running against Goodluck Jonathan at the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party primaries for next year's crunch presidential vote.

The UN Security Council has condemned "in its strongest terms" the car bombings which it labelled as "criminal and unjustifiable".