Deadly bombs rock Nigeria

2011-04-25 10:53

Three deadly bomb blasts have rocked a city in northeastern Nigeria, the latest violence to hit Africa’s most populous nation following presidential elections and ahead of state governorship polls.

It was unclear whether the blasts on Easter Sunday in the city of Maiduguri were linked to the unrest that swept across Nigeria’s north last week, leaving more than 500 dead, according to a local rights group.

Maiduguri has long been hit by violence blamed on an Islamist sect that launched an uprising in 2009, and police said they suspected the group was behind Sunday’s bomb blasts at a hotel tavern and a transport hub.

The explosions, which police said were caused by bombs, occurred nearly simultaneously, with the two locations not far apart from each other. Two blasts hit the hotel and one hit the transport hub.

“For sure casualties were recorded, but we cannot say how many dead or how many were injured in the blast,” police spokesman Mai Mamman said.

“The victims were evacuated to two hospitals in the city. We will have to sort out the victims to ascertain how many were dead and how many were injured. From all indications, this is the handiwork of Boko Haram, which has carried out similar attacks in the past.”

The sect known as Boko Haram is seen as opposed to the ruling party in Borno state, where Maiduguri is the capital, and some of the recent violence blamed on the group is believed to have been politically motivated.

Most of Nigeria’s 36 states will hold governorship elections tomorrow, including Borno, where the conservative All Nigeria People’s Party is in power.

Boko Haram had distributed fliers earlier yesterday warning of further attacks, saying “we are fighters waging jihad in Nigeria”.

“We will never accept any system of governance apart from the one described by Islam because that is the only way Muslims can be liberated,” the fliers said. “We do not respect the Nigerian government because it is illegal.

“We will continue to fight its military and police because they are not protecting Islam.”

The sect launched an uprising in 2009 put down by a brutal military assault that left hundreds dead. In recent months, it has been blamed for a series of attacks and shootings, most of them in Maiduguri.

Boko Haram means “Western education is sin” in the regional Hausa language, though the group has gone by various names.

Violence had earlier marred the campaign ahead of the vote in Borno, including the assassination of one of the leading governorship candidates.

At least four other explosions have hit Maiduguri in recent weeks, including one the night before the presidential election and one the day of the vote.

Two explosions also hit Maiduguri on the day of the April 9 parliamentary polls.

Rioting swept across northern Nigeria a week ago in the wake of the April 16 presidential election won by incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian.

Jonathan’s main rival was ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north.

Nigeria’s 150 million population is roughly divided in half between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.

The north has long been economically marginalised compared to the oil-rich south, helping fuel last week’s riots.

Despite being Africa’s largest oil producer, Nigeria has long been held back by deeply rooted corruption, and widespread poverty remains.

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