Nigerian twin car bombings leave 46 dead, scores wounded

Twin attacks in city straddling country's Christian south and Muslim north add to death toll from violence that has already claimed hundreds year.
Smoke rises after a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Nigeria's central city of Jos on May 20, 2014. Two explosions ripped through a bustling bus terminal and market frequented by thousands of people. Stefanos Foundation / AP Photo
Smoke rises after a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Nigeria's central city of Jos on May 20, 2014. Two explosions ripped through a bustling bus terminal and market frequented by thousands of people. Stefanos Foundation / AP Photo

Latest update: Death toll in twin blasts climb to 118

JOS, Nigeria // Two car bombs exploded at a bustling bus terminal and market in Nigeria’s central city of Jos on Tuesday, killing at least 46 people and wounding dozens.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, but they bore the hallmarks of the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

The second blast came half an hour after the first, killing some of the rescue workers who had rushed to the scene, which was obscured by billows of black smoke.

Dozens of bodies and body parts were covered in grain that had been loaded in the second car bomb, witnesses said. A Terminus Market official said he helped remove 50 casualties, most of them dead.

“It’s horrifying, terrible,” said Mark Lipdo of the Stefanos Foundation, a Christian charity based in Jos, who said he could smell burning human flesh.

At least 46 people were killed, according to Superintendent Felicia Anslem Ali, police spokeswoman for Plateau state.

Photographs showed a woman’s body, legs blown off, on the edge of an inferno consuming other bodies, with a hand reaching out of the flames. Another woman, unconscious, was being carried away in a wheelbarrow on a road strewn with glass shards.

Pam Ayuba, a spokesman for the Plateau state governor Jonah Jang, said most of the victims were women.

Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan swiftly condemned the attack in the central city of Jos, calling it a “tragic assault on human freedom” and condemning the perpetrators as “cruel and evil”.

Plateau, of which Jos is the capital, falls in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt, where the mainly Christian south meets the Muslim-majority north.

The state and its religiously divided capital have seen deadly sectarian clashes in the past as well as attacks from Boko Haram extremists.

The deadly strike and a suicide car bomb attack that killed four in the northern city of Kano on Sunday will raise questions about the government’s grip on the country’s security.

The Kano bombing in a predominantly Christian neighbourhood of the ancient city and commercial hub has previously been hit by the Islamist militants, although a political motive has not been ruled out.

There was no immediate indication of who was responsible for the latest attacks and the police in Kano said they had arrested two men, but the Boko Haram insurgency is Nigeria’s most pressing security issue.

The militants claimed responsibility for an April 14 car bomb attack on a bus station in a suburb of the capital Abuja which killed 75.

They are also suspected of carrying out a copycat bombing in the same location on May 1 which left 19 dead.

International attention has been focused on Nigeria since Boko Haram militants kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in Borno state on April 14.

Northern Nigeria has been hit by a growing wave of attacks since the start of the insurgency in 2009 and sporadic attacks in Cameroon, Chad and Niger have prompted fears of a regional threat.

Regional leaders agreed at a summit in Paris on Saturday to improve their cooperation, including by better surveillance and intelligence-sharing, to end the violence.

Mr Jonathan said on Tuesday that the summit was a success and pledged to implement its resolutions as well as existing plans to increase security.

He said “every necessary measure” should be taken to find the 223 schoolgirls still missing, and that neighbouring countries would contribute a battalion of troops each to patrol the border region and there would be a crackdown on arms trafficking.

In Nigeria, where there have been widespread concerns about the safety of schoolchildren, the police said they were beefing up security at boarding schools to prevent a repeat kidnapping.

Senior officials said they expected the results to help determine security strategies to reduce the vulnerability of schools, which have previously been seen as soft targets for the extremists.

Earlier this month, the United Nations’ special envoy for global education, British former prime minister Gordon Brown, announced a “safe schools initiative” to improve security at an initial 500 schools in the north.

The blasts in Jos happened after senators in the upper chamber of Nigeria’s parliament gave their unanimous approval for a six-month extension to a state of emergency in three north-east states.

The lower House of Representatives had overwhelmingly backed the plan in a vote last week.

Mr Jonathan had requested a continuation of special powers in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa because of what he said was the “daunting” security situation and mounting civilian casualties.

The approval – the second since special powers were first introduced on May 14 last year – came as no surprise, with more than 2,000 people killed this year alone.

In approving their request, the senators said they “welcome and endorse the support of the international community” in the search, which includes the United States, Britain, France and Israel.

The senators called on mr Jonathan, who has been criticised for his lacklustre response to the mass kidnapping, to expand cooperation to bring an end to the violence.

They also called for a “full military operation” to be conducted to crush the insurgents as well as non-military means to tackle the roots of the rebellion in the impoverished north.

* Associated Presse and Agence France-Presse

Published: May 21, 2014 04:00 AM

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