A bomb at a crowded market in Nigeria’s capital Abuja killed at least four people and injured more than a dozen during New Year’s Eve celebrations late on Friday.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan blamed the blast on an Islamist group that claimed responsibility for bombings on Christmas Eve in central Nigeria that killed at least 80 people and urged the security forces to track down those responsible.
The explosion occurred at Mami market, a busy area where people congregate to socialize on the edge of the Sani Abacha army barracks, but not in its militarized area.
Boko Haram, a radical sect which wants Islamic law throughout Nigeria, said it was behind the bombings in Jos on Dec. 24, which also wounded more than 100.
The police say the group is blame for a series of shootings and blasts in northern Nigeria in the past week that come just four months before a presidential election in Nigeria that could heighten religious and ethnic rivalries in the oil exporter.
“There are four dead and at least 13 injured,” police spokesman Moshood Jimoh said. “The scene has been cordoned off by security agents and an investigation has commenced. Security has been tightened around the whole city.”
A worker at the military medical center in the barracks said at least 11 people had been killed and many more casualties were being taken to other hospitals in Abuja.
“Sixteen victims were brought into the hospital, four were dead, but the other 12 are in a stable condition,” Asokoro Hospital director-general Udofia Enefion said.
One witness said he was approaching the market to join the New Year’s Eve celebrations when he heard the blast.
“People ran in different directions. There were scores of bodies — dead and wounded. They used army trucks to pack them away,” said Eric, a regular user of the market.
The president said in a statement: “Tonight, evil people determined to turn the joys of fellow Nigerians to ashes detonated a bomb at a barracks market in the federal capital city. Basking in their nefarious success in Jos on Christmas Eve, they have once again knifed at the heartstrings of a nation decked out in gaiety, celebrating New Year’s Eve.”
The flare-up of violence has come at a bad time for Jonathan, who inherited the office when former president Umaru Yar’Adua died in May and will contest ruling party primaries this month in a step toward April’s presidential election.
Jonathan can ill afford a security crisis, as any unrest in Africa’s most populous nation is likely to be used by his rivals to undermine his credibility.
Nigerian elections usually favor the incumbent and Jonathan is still the frontrunner, but his campaign is controversial.
An unofficial party pact says that power within the ruling People’s Democratic Party should rotate between the mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south every two terms.
Yar’Adua, a northerner, died during his first term, and some northern factions are opposed to the candidacy of Jonathan, a southerner. He faces a northern challenge from former vice president Atiku Abubakar for the party nomination.
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