A MORNING rush-hour bomb killed at least 71 people at a Nigerian bus station on the outskirts of the capital yesterday, raising concerns about the spread of an Islamist insurgency after the deadliest ever attack on Abuja.
Suspicion fell on Boko Haram, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility from the Islamists who are mainly active in the northeast. As well as 71 dead, police said 124 were wounded in the first attack on the federal capital in two years.
Security experts suspect the explosion was inside a vehicle, said Air Commodore Charles Otegbade, director of search and rescue operations. The bus station, five miles southwest of central Abuja, serves Nyanya, a poor, ethnically and religiously mixed satellite town where many residents work in the city. "I was waiting to get on a bus when I heard a deafening explosion, then saw smoke," said Mimi Daniels, who escaped from the blast with minor injuries to her arm. "People were running around in panic." Bloody remains lay strewn over the ground as security forces struggled to hold back a crowd of onlookers and fire crews hosed down a bus still holding the charred bodies of commuters.
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"These are the remains of my friend," said a man, who gave his name as John, holding up a bloodied shirt. "His travel ticket with his name on was in the shirt pocket."
The attack underscored the vulnerability of Nigeria's federal capital, built in the 1980s in the centre of the country to replace coastal Lagos as the seat of government for what is now Africa's biggest economy and top oil producer. Boko Haram militants fighting for an Islamic state have largely been confined to the remote northeast.