On 19 February, an improvised bomb exploded near a church in Suleja, a town in Niger State, but on the edge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The blast occurred on Morocco Road, at the heart of the commercial area of the town, wounding five people and damaging five cars.
According to Uyi Idugboe, pastor of the Christ Embassy Church, the blast struck just a few minutes after the church service had started at 10 am. He said a member of the church, who had gone out to check that his vehicle was locked, spotted a suspicious-looking package lying between two cars. He promptly alerted everyone to stay indoors.
Said Idugboe: “When we were alerted, about 25 minutes before the detonation, we called everybody inside the church. That is why we don’t have casualties”.
The Commissioner of Police in Niger State, Alhaji Ibrahim Maishanu, reported that no one was killed by the blast. Yushua Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) also confirmed that: “No person died in the Suleja explosion. One person was seriously injured and is now in hospital. Four victims had minor injuries while five vehicles were damaged”.
Responding to the incident, large numbers of soldiers, police and other security operatives soon cordoned off the area, to enable bomb experts commence investigations.
Churches in Suleja and nearby Madalla have been targeted repeatedly by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which says it is fighting to establish Islamic rule in the northern states of the country. Its most recent attack in the area was the Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church in Madalla, which killed about 43 people and wounded 57.
However, security operatives have arrested the suspected mastermind of that attack. More recently, the State Security Service (SSS) reportedly raided the home of one Bashiru Madalla, identified as coordinator of Boko Haram’s operations in the FCT and Niger State; but the suspect is said to be on the run.
The men, armed with AK-47 rifles and explosives, invaded the riverside community after midnight and blew up the main gate to the house, using an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Some residents reported hearing a loud blast around 12.45am.
Reports said the invaders thereafter ransacked the house, looting vital property which they loaded unto their speed boats. The invaders then torched the multi-million naira building and conference centre, as well as a property owned by the minister’s mother, before fleeing the community.
The motive of the attackers was not yet established. Some residents speculated that they may have been armed robbers, acting on allegations that the minister had kept a large amount of money in the house. Others said the attack may have been staged by ex-militants or other interests in the Niger Delta, who had accused the minister of “not carrying them along” in the award of contracts by his ministry.
However, Orubebe himself alleged that the attack was politically motivated. He claimed that, from the report available to him, the attackers were loyalists of the Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva. He said: “They claimed that they carried out the action to protest my roles in the exclusion of Governor Timipre Sylva from the governorship election in February. They said I was part of the syndicate that denied the governor the second ticket”.
Governor Sylva, speaking through his Commissioner for Information, Mr. Nathan Egba, promptly dismissed the Minister’s allegation as unfounded and baseless.
On receiving the report of the incident, the Commissioner of Police in Delta State, Mr. Ibrahim Tsafe, directed the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Burutu Local Government Area to send men to Ogbobagbene community, for first-hand assessment of the incident and also for speedy investigations.
Multiple bomb explosions rock Kano: Zonal Police headquarters, several police stations, Immigration office hit
On 20 January, multiple explosions and gunfire rocked Kano, capital of Kano State and the commercial nerve centre of northern Nigeria, destroying several government buildings and turning the city into chaos.
Among the buildings hit were the Zone 1 police headquarters at Kofar Dan Agundi, along BUK road, Sharada; several other police stations and the Immigration office at Farm Centre. There were fears of substantial casualties, but no figures immediately available.
Local sources report huge smoke rising from the zonal police headquarters, after the building had been severely damaged by the blast. The building includes the office of the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of the zone, which comprises the police commands in Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States.
One account said the bomber of the police headquarters came close to the building on a motor cycle, got down and then made a dash inside, clutching a bag. The account said police tried to stop him but he forced his way through, and then the blast went off.
Soon after that first blast, several other explosions went off in different parts of the city. Some residents report that another explosion hit the police station on Zaria Road while a third hit the Immigration office. Others suggest that up to eight police stations may have been hit. Some residents said the attackers had freed detainees from about six police stations.
One report said another bomber also tried to attack the office of the State Security Service (SSS) but was shot down before he could detonate his bomb. A second attacker is said to have been arrested, but this is yet to be confirmed by security authorities.
There are yet no official or comprehensive reports of casualties, but some sources say they could be “substantial”. Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Kano, said they were having a hard time trying to reach the scenes of the major explosions, as police and army teams had cordoned off most of them and also set up many roadblocks across the city.
The Al Jazeera correspondent quotes one witness as having seen at least seven dead bodies, including five immigration officers and two civilians.
Police have declared a 24-hour curfew in Kano metropolis, but there were sounds of gunfire, apparently from gun battles between the attackers and security operatives, beyond sunset.
The Islamist militant group, widely known as Boko Haram, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks.
The group says it is fighting to establish Islamic rule in the northernmost third of Nigeria’s 36 states. It had claimed responsibility, or had been blamed by security authorities, for several bomb and gun attacks, especially in the north-eastern Borno State, since late 2010.
On 16 June 2011, it claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attack inside the premises of the Nigeria Police headquarters in the federal capital, Abuja. On 26 August, it also claimed responsibility for the bombing of the United Nations office complex in Abuja, in which 25 people were killed.
Most recently, it said it was responsible for the Christmas Day bomb attack on a church in Madalla near Abuja, in which over 40 worshippers were killed. In the first week of January, it gave all Christians and southerners a two-day ultimatum to leave the northern parts of the country, but government and security authorities urges citizens to ignore that ultimatum.
On 30 December, three explosions were reported in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, but military authorities said no one was killed.
Initial reports had said that one of the explosions occurred near a mosque after the Friday afternoon prayers and set off a massive stampede, and that about four people may have been killed.
BBC had quoted the Director of Army Public Relations, Maj Gen Raphael Isa, as confirming there had been a “major incident” which had caused casualties.
However, the spokesman of the military Joint Task Force in the state, Lt Col Hassan Mohammed, while confirming the blasts to newsmen, said none of them occurred near a mosque. He said the explosions occurred near market areas in different parts of the city but that no one was killed.
The explosions occurred only five days after the Christmas Day bomb attacks on churches in Madalla, a town in Niger State close to the federal capital, Abuja, and also in Jos, capital of Plateau State. Those attacks killed at least 42 people, mostly Christian worshippers at the St Theresa’s Catholic church in Madalla. The government blamed the attacks on the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram; a spokesman for the group also reportedly claimed responsibility.
About 24 hours before the latest blast, the group had emailed a statement to some media houses saying: “If God is willing, we will carry out further attacks”.
On 25 December – Christmas day – an ambulance conveying some victims of the bomb blast which occurred near the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla earlier in the day, to a hospital in Abuja, was involved in a road accident.
A statement by the Head of Media and Publicity at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Yusha’u Shuaib, said three officers of the agency were transferring 27 persons wounded in the Madalla blast, from the National Hospital to the State House Clinic, both in Abuja, when the ambulance crashed.
The ambulance somersaulted after the crash, but information on the circumstances of the accident remains sketchy.
On 25 December – Christmas Day – bomb explosions in three cities – Madalla (Niger State); Jos (Plateau State) and Damaturu (Yobe State), left dozens dead or wounded. Some estimates said the blasts killed over 35 people.
In Madalla, a market town near Suleja in Niger State, a powerful explosion near the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church killed about 30 people and wounded more than 50. The blast destroyed or seriously damaged several cars, with some of the occupants burnt inside.
Security sources said the explosion occurred after members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, threw improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from a moving vehicle. Some sources report that the attackers threw the explosive after failing to gain access to the church during the Christmas morning service.
A spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) put the casualties at 16, but local residents and other rescue workers said the toll was significantly higher. The French news agency, AFP, quoted a local priest, Father Christopher Barde, as saying rescue officials told him they had counted 27 bodies.
Some of the wounded were rushed to hospitals in the Federal capital, Abuja, for treatment, but died before getting there. Madalla is about 30 km from Abuja.
In Jos, the Plateau State capital, two blasts targeted the Mountain of Fire and Miracles church, as some young men reportedly threw bombs at the building. No one was killed by the blast, but a police officer was mortally wounded, after security operatives engaged the attackers in a gun battle. The officer was rushed to the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) for medical attention, but died of his wounds.
After the firefight, the attackers fled into a crowd, but the Police arrested four suspected persons. Military and other security personnel also recovered and disabled some explosive devices at a nearby building.
The blasts mark the second Christmas that bombs have hit Christian houses of worship in Jos. Five churches were attacked in the city, on and around Christmas Day 2010, with dozens killed. Boko Haram later claimed responsibility for the attacks.
In Damaturu, capital of Yobe state, a State Security Service (SSS) building was attacked by a bomber. Sources said a suicide bomber seeking to run his car into a military convoy in front of the agency’s office, killed himself and three security agents. Only hours earlier, on Christmas Eve, an explosion had targeted a church in Gadaka, a town near Damaturu. Local sources said many people may have been wounded, but there were no figures of any casualties.
SECURITY AUTHORITIES BLAME BOKO HARAM, SECT CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
The National Security Adviser to the President, Gen Owoye Azazi (rtd), in a statement, blamed the attacks on the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram. The statement said: “The latest mindless and cowardly attacks by Boko Haram members, specifically directed at churches, were pre-meditated”.
AFP later reported that a Boko Haram spokesman, Abul Qaqa, had called on phone, claiming responsibility for the blasts. The news agency quoted the spokesman as saying: “We are responsible for all the attacks in the past few days, including today’s bombing of the church in Madalla. We will continue to launch such attacks throughout the north in the next few days”.
On 17 December, three men suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect commonly known as Boko Haram, were killed in an explosion inside a bomb factory in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
Briefing newsmen on the incident, the spokesman of the military Joint Task Force (JTF), Lt Col Hassan Mohammed reported that at about 9 am, an explosion occurred in Shehuri II area of Bolori in Maiduguri metropolis. He said JTF operatives rushed to the scene of the blast and found that it occurred in a house inhabited by unidentified men, suspected to be members of Boko Haram. They also found three mangled corpses at the scene.
Hassan said the area was immediately cordoned off while the Police Bomb Disposal Squad was called in for detailed investigations. He said the investigators confirmed that the house was being used by suspected members of Boko Haram as a major factory for the production of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
He further stated that large quantities of unused IED-making materials, including three drums containing gun powder, two AK-47 riffles, ammunition, remote controls, uniforms of the Police Mobile Force with ranks, injecting syringes, Jerry cans loaded with gas, one grinding machine, assorted containers of gun powder, tapes with Islamic inscriptions, laptop, video camera, GSM handsets, wall clocks and several prepared IEDs.
On 13 December, an explosion killed four people and wounded about 11 others in the London Ciki ward of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
Local sources report that the blast came from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) which had targeted a patrol vehicle of the military Joint Task Force (JTF), along the busy Tashan Bala Road.
They said a suspected member of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, who was trying to detonate the explosive, was killed by the blast. Among others killed was a 9-year-old child. Eleven other persons reportedly suffered serious injuries. The residential house of the Imam of Maikatanga mosque, Mallam Goni Modu, was burnt down.
The JTF’s Field Operations Officer in Borno, Colonel Victor Ebhaleme, confirmed that an IED was targeted at a military patrol vehicle near a densely populated residential area; but he said the device did not hit any JTF men or operational vehicles.
He said: “We heard the explosion around 9 am, after which we quickly rushed to the scene of the incident where we discovered that a suspected Boko Haram sect member died in the process of detonating an explosive device”. He also said the JTF men recovered some arms and ammunition from the vehicle which the suspected bomber drove before the explosion went off. He said the JTF men “were able to rescue some women and children from one of the houses that was set ablaze as a result of the explosion”. However, he gave no casualty figures.
Ebhaleme said: “Right now, there is no need to panic. We have brought the situation under control”.