Fri, Jul 25, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Bombings in Nigeria kill 42, but miss main targets

NY Times News Service, DAKAR

Bombs targeting two prominent Nigerians, a cleric and a leading politician exploded in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna on Wednesday, killing at least 42 people, but missing the intended victims, officials said.

Both Sheik Dahiru Bauchi and Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler of Nigeria, have been critical recently of the violent Muslim sect Boko Haram and suspicion immediately fell on that group.

Boko Haram’s bloody five-year insurgency has been gathering in intensity — significant swathes of territory in the country’s far northeast are effectively under its control — but Wednesday’s bombings represented something of a departure in the sect’s campaign to undermine the Nigerian government.

Kaduna is a major city of more than 1 million people.

TARGETS

Buhari, the leading figure in the main opposition party, and Bauchi each have millions of followers in the populous north.

If either had been killed, the shock and anger that likely would have followed would have been a major challenge for the already shaky government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

“The fact that these two personalities survived, it could have been much worse,” said Shehu Sani, a resident of Kaduna who is also a leading Nigerian social critic, writer and activist.

“If they had been killed, it would have resulted in serious civil unrest,” Sani added.

As it was, the bombs killed many innocent bystanders — street-vendors and passers-by.

“Some of those killed were traders selling fruits who patronized the neighborhood,” Sani said.

His own house, in a leafy neighborhood where many prominent citizens live, was shaken by the first blast, which was aimed at Bauchi.

Supporters were gathering in a central square to hear him preach a sermon marking the end of Ramadan when the bomb, which officials said had been planted, exploded.

Bauchi had not yet arrived, but at least 25 people were killed and dozens more injured.

He had recently described Boko Haram as un-Islamic; an attempt on his life was also made at his home some three weeks ago.

Buhari, who ruled Nigeria with an iron hand in the early 1980s and was deposed in a coup, has made a comeback as the leading opponent to Jonathan and most likely a candidate against him in next year’s election.

Buhari was passing through Kaduna when a suicide bomber drove a vehicle into his convoy. Buhari survived, but at least 17 others were killed.

Buhari has recently published writings critical of Boko Haram, and the sect has issued threats against him.

BOKO HARAM

By striking at two leading figures in Nigerian public life, Boko Haram has shown its capacity to reach beyond its narrow base in the northeast and inject itself — violently — into the center of the country’s national discourse.

Yet up until now, a series of random bombings in Abuja, the capital, have been virtually the only examples of that sort of escalation.

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