Suspects in Nigeria blasts named

2010-10-04 07:54

Abuja – Nigerian police have named two men as masterminds of two deadly independence day car bombings after President Goodluck Jonathan said a “small terrorist group” based abroad was behind the attacks.

Police said the perpetrators had intended to “commit mass murder” and distributed photos and other details of the two suspects, identifying them as Nigerian citizens Chima Orlu and Ben Jessy.

“An arrest has been made by the police in connection with the incident,” the police said.

They also provided a death toll of 10 from the blasts, as opposed to the figure of 12 that was earlier reported.

The attacks near celebrations marking the west African nation’s 50 years of independence were followed by a claim of responsibility by Nigeria’s main rebel group.

But Jonathan said the perpetrators were “a small terrorist group that resides outside Nigeria that was paid by some people ...

“We are on their trail and I promise Nigerians that the matter will be investigated to the last. We will not rest.”

Statements in the name of Nigerian militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) have claimed responsibility for the bombings, but Jonathan seemed to cast doubt on the author of the claim.

“Nigerians will soon know the actors behind this evil.”

Warnings and previous attacks
Mend has claimed to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue.

It has carried out scores of attacks in the Niger Delta, the country’s main oil-producing region, but an amnesty deal offered by the government last year has greatly reduced the unrest.

A statement attributed to Mend sent to media outlets about an hour before the bombs went off warned of the attacks.

Further statements claimed responsibility and said authorities had been given a five-day advance warning.

The statements are always signed by Jomo Gbomo, believed to be an alias, and come from the same email address.

A spokesperson for the Nigerian intelligence service said authorities were aware of warnings purportedly from the group a number of days before the blasts and security was tightened.

After the attacks, a former Mend leader, Henry Okah, was arrested in South Africa under the country’s terrorism and related offences laws. He has not yet been charged and is due to appear in court on Monday, his lawyer said.

He has denied any involvement in the car bombings, according to his lawyer, Piet du Plessis.

Okah was arrested in Angola three years ago and later transferred to Nigerian custody. He was released last year as part of the amnesty programme and has a home in South Africa.

Another statement in the name of Mend on Saturday said that “Okah has never been involved in any Mend operations but has always been blamed for every attack, which is strange to us”.

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