?‘Don’t let terror win’

2014-05-04 15:00

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Nigeria has urged delegates due to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Abuja next week “not to let terror win” by staying away after a second bombing in the capital in less than three weeks.

A suspected car bomb killed 19 people and wounded 34 on Thursday night in the satellite town of Nyanya about 8km from Abuja’s city centre.

It went off next to the bus station where a rush-hour bomb killed 75 people on April 14.

The bombs, and the abduction of more than 200 girls from a secondary school in the northeast village of Chibok near the Cameroon border, threaten to overshadow the WEF conference’s emphasis on Africa’s positive growth story.

The girls, who were writing exams, were snatched on the same day as the bus station bombing.

The militant group, Boko Haram, has been blamed for all the attacks.

A regional replica of the event in Davos, Switzerland, the conference on Wednesday and Thursday will bring together international leaders, policymakers, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on Friday: “We want to state categorically that the administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will not be diverted, nor will it give in to these nefarious acts of terrorism.

“The government has taken the strongest measures to ensure a safe forum. We ask participants not to let terror win.”

But not all delegates are convinced that Nigerian authorities can keep the capital safe during the event.

Fernando de Sousa, general manager of Microsoft Africa Initiatives, cancelled his trip “for security reasons following the bombings in Abuja”, a PR company representing the firm said.

The search for the missing girls in Chibok is continuing although Jonathan’s administration has been widely criticised for not acting swiftly enough to locate and free them.

Interior Minister Abba Moro said that “defence high command is doing everything to secure the release of these girls”.

“We are closing in on their location. Hopefully in the next couple of days, they will be rescued,” said Moro.

But he added: “The government has to be careful. Any all-out forceful rescue of these kids could undermine their safety.”

He said efforts had been made to seek out possible intermediaries for negotiation for the return of the girls, but declined to give any details of actual talks.

The US said on Thursday that it had offered to help Nigeria in its search for the schoolgirls.

Britain has also offered support.

But the parents of the missing pupils have started to despair of ever being reunited with them and tend to disbelieve government claims that they are searching hard for them.

A parent, Malam Maina, said: “We haven’t seen any soldier or security personnel going into the bush in search of the girls, so we really don’t understand where they are carrying out their search operation.”

About 250 parents protested in the village on Thursday to demand swifter action.

A Borno state senator, Ahmed Zannah, fears that the girls have been taken as “wives” by Boko Haram commanders.

This is a grim echo of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, which abducted thousands of girls from central Africa for the same purpose.

There has been no news of the pupils’ fate beyond the approximately 50 girls who managed to escape

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