Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Abuja bomb blast kills 21

NIGERIAN UNREST:The blast destroyed about 40 cars, including several taxis waiting for passengers, and blew out widows on the opposite side of the street

AFP, ABUJA

Burned-out cars stand at the scene of an explosion in a popular shopping district of the Nigerian capital of Abuja during rush hour on Wednesday. At least 21 people were killed in the blast. No one has claimed responsibility.

Photo: Reuters

Investigators yesterday sifted through the wreckage of a bomb blast that claimed 21 lives and injured 17 in a shopping center in the capital Abuja as shoppers spoke of their shock in a city gripped by fear over a campaign of violence by Boko Haram Islamists.

Wednesday’s blast shook the Emab Plaza at 4pm, the country’s National Emergency Management Agency said, as shoppers were buying groceries ahead of Nigeria’s FIFA World Cup match against Argentina, which kicked off an hour later.

Dozens of soldiers and police guarded the scene yesterday, with the main road running past the plaza closed off, traders denied access to their shops and the burned-out shells of cars littering the blast zone.

Senior government spokesman Mike Omeri confirmed that the blast was the result of “a bomb attack.”

Shellshocked shopkeepers and witnesses swapped stories of near misses as they returned to the scene yesterday.

“I don’t believe only 21 people died yesterday because the bomb exploded shortly after I left the spot. I ran after a customer who was at that gate to give him his phone which he forgot in our shop,” trader Suleiman Mohammed said.

Police and the country’s National Information Center said on Wednesday one suspect had been arrested after the explosion, while another was shot dead by troops as he tried to escape on a motorbike.

The blast, at the entrance to the mall, was powerful enough to blow out windows in buildings on the opposite side of the street, a foreign correspondent on the scene in the immediate aftermath said.

The area, sandwiched between two other shopping centers and one of the busiest in central Abuja, was littered with the burned out wreckages of of about cars and dotted with pools of congealed blood.

“I saw a woman who almost [went] mad yesterday looking for her husband. According to her, she left her husband parked in his car waiting at that gate while she stepped into the plaza to buy something,” trader Bisi Adeoye said.

“I saw many dead bodies. Some taxi drivers parked at the spot of the explosion waiting for passengers. Some drivers perished there with their passengers,” said Oreoluwa Adeoye, who sells cellphone accessories at the nearby plaza.

Shuaibu Adamu Baba, an education consultant, on Wednesday said he had lost his driver in the blast.

“It is terrible. There are a lot of human bodies shattered... They are in pieces. The security agencies have been picking human bodies [parts] in nylon bags,” he said. “I lost a driver that has three wives and eight children.”

Local media said Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan had cancelled plans to attend an African Union summit in Equatorial Guinea, and had instead returned to lead the response to the crisis.

Boko Haram has twice attacked Nigeria’s capital in the past 10 weeks: A car bombing killed 75 people at the Nyanya bus terminal on the outskirts of the city on April 14, while a copycat bombing at the same spot on May 1 left 19 people dead.

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