ThisDay offices bombed - 7 killed

2012-04-26 21:17

Abuja - A suicide bomber detonated a car loaded with explosives on Thursday at the office of a major Nigerian newspaper in the country's capital and another man threw a bomb near another newspaper office in Kaduna, killing at least seven people in the attacks, witnesses said.

The attack in Abuja struck the offices of ThisDay, an influential daily newspaper. The bombing in Kaduna struck a building housing offices for ThisDay, The Moment and The Daily Sun newspapers, witnesses said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, though they mirrored others previously carried out by a radical Islamist sect responsible for hundreds of deaths in Nigeria this year alone.

In Abuja, the suicide bomber rammed his car through the gates of the ThisDay office and drove into the reception area before the explosion, said Nwakpa O Nwakpa, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Red Cross. The blast killed at least three people and wounded others, Nwakpa said. The suicide bomber died in the blast, he said.

Soldiers and police officers quickly surrounded the building, which had part of its roof torn away and all its windows blown out by the force of the explosion.

The blast focused on the end of the building with the newspaper's printing press, while the newsroom sat far away from the blast. However, the force of the explosion overturned tables and scattered debris through the journalists' workroom.

A large gate bearing the newspaper's logo sustained damage, with fire and smoke seen billowing in the distance underneath it after the blast.

Officers at the blast collected debris from the explosion for analysis, said Adenrele Shinaba, the capital's police commissioner.

Everybody is a target

The attack in Kaduna also included a car loaded with explosives, though people at the newspaper office quickly surrounded the car, witnesses said. The driver then began shouting that there was a bomb inside the car, witness Jemilu Abdullahi said.

The man opened the trunk of the car and he pulled out an object and threw it at the crowd, the object then exploded, Abdullahi said. At least four people died in that blast, Nwakpa said. Authorities later arrested the bomber, Kaduna state police commissioner Mohammed Jingiri Abubakar said.

"What I can tell you is that for these dangerous elements, everybody is a target," Abubakar said.

It is unclear why bombers targeted ThisDay, a newspaper owned by the politically connected media mogul Nduka Obaigbena. In 2002, rioting over an article published by ThisDay suggesting the Prophet Muhammad would have married a Miss World pageant contestant killed dozens in Kaduna.

Obaigbena, whose flashy events in Nigeria have drawn celebrities from former US President Bill Clinton to rapper Jay-Z, also has strong ties to the country's elite and the ruling People's Democratic Party.

Gbayode Somuyiwa, an official with ThisDay, said he was not aware of any specific threats against the publication. However, he said the publication had increased its security amid the spate of bombings and violence now striking Nigeria.

In a statement, President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the attack as "ignoble, misguided, horrendous and wicked".

The government will "continue to uphold the constitutional right to freedom of express in general and press freedom in particular," the statement read. "Criminal elements bent on instilling fear in the minds of Nigerians and foreigners will not succeed."

The attack comes as the radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram continues its violent campaign against Nigeria's weak central government. The sect is blamed for killed more than 440 people this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.

Attacks against journalists are common in Nigeria, a country of more than 160 million where corruption pervades government and business. Reporters found themselves routinely targeted during military rule of Africa's most populous nation as well, though 12 years of democracy in the nation have enshrined a belief, if not an absolute right, to free speech.

Journalism itself can be a dangerous and corrupt profession in the country. Local journalists often accept so-called "brown envelope" bribes slipped into briefing documents at news conferences or cash from interview subjects.

In January, Boko Haram gunmen shot and killed a journalist with private network Channels Television during an attack on the northern city of Kano that killed at least 185 people.

"It confirms our fears the media is not safe," said Mohammed Garba, president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists. "Journalists are not safe."

Read more on:    nigeria  |  west africa  |  media

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