Boko Haram Hits Again
Three children were also killed in a similar incident that occurred near a church compound in Damboa, Borno State.
The Police headquarters bomb blast, which the police described as a suicide attack, was apparently targeted at the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim.
The police headquarters is a minute‘s drive from the gate of the Presidential Villa and three minutes drive from the National Assembly.
The bombing is the third in eight months in Abuja. On October 1, 2010, 13 persons were killed in twin bomb blasts near the Eagle Square while on May 29, 2011, three men died after being seriously injured in an explosion at a local pub in a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory, Zuba.
An outlawed Islamic group, Boko Haram told the Voice of America on Thursday that it was responsible for the Police headquarters attack .
The attack came four days after Ringim announced renewed efforts by the police to eliminate the dreaded sect in Borno State, where it has been blamed for a number of killings and bomb attacks.
The IG’s convoy had driven into the force headquarters also known as Louis Edet House around 10.40am, unaware that there was a Honda Civic trailing it.
THE PUNCH gathered that the suspected bomber drove into the premises a few minutes after the IG’s four-vehicle convoy entered and attempted to park close to it near the entrance of the building.
According to a witness, policemen who observed the driver’s suspicious moves directed a traffic warden to escort him to the car park and search the car. The traffic warden joined the strange man in the car and as they got to the parking area, the bomb went off, causing a huge fire that wrecked 77 vehicles in the park.
Ringim was yet to enter his office located on the sixth floor of the building when the blast went off , causing panic among police personnel, visitors and contractors in the premises.
Chunks of human flesh were splattered all over the scene of the explosions and on vehicles at the car park. Also, our correspondent saw a severed left leg on the tarmac of the lot.
The impact of the blast was so massive that it shook the building, shattering its glass windows.
Policemen abandoned their duty posts and fled to safety just as a thick column of smoke billowed from burning cars. Firemen were swiftly deployed in the complex to put out the blaze.
Some policemen, soldiers, Federal Road Safety Corps officials and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps operatives milled around the crime scene.
The entire stretch of Shehu Shagari Road leading to the Federal Secretariat and National Assembly as well as other link roads to the police headquarters were cordoned off, creating a serious traffic jam in parts of the metropolis.
Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency and Red Cross also conveyed the dead and injured in ambulances to Asokoro District Hospital.
Among the injured were policemen but armed security agents barred journalists from having access to them.
At the Asokoro District Hospital, its Chairman, Dr. Abubakar Ahmadu, said “Nine policemen injured from the bomb blast were brought to this hospital from the police headquarters. All of them have superficial injuries.
Two unidentified dead bodies were later brought to the hospital.
National Emergency Management Agency spokesman, Yushau Shuaibu, told THE PUNCH that the agency’s Director-General, Alhaji Muhammad Sani-Sidi, led a team of responders to the complex shortly after the explosion.
He said the team utilised specialised equipment such as ambulances, hydraulic spreader and cutters as well as body bags for the response operation.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Olusola Amore, who briefed journalists shortly after the incident, stated that the suspected bomber was intercepted when he drove close to the IG’s convoy and was directed to the car park where he detonated the explosives in his car.
He said, “The warden who joined him in the car was blown along with him. We have recovered the body of the bomber. The IG expressed displeasure at the suicide attacks and warned that whoever is behind this criminal act will be fished out.
“Any group going by any name, be it Boko Haram or Al Qaeda, the government and the police will go after them and deal with them according to the law. We will not succumb to the demands of any criminal group or individual.”
Pressed for further comments, Amore declined, saying investigations had just commenced and it would be premature to ascribe the incident to any group.
But he said the incident would not force the IG to resign.
Boko Haram claims responsibility
But Some hours later, a Boko Haram spokesman, Usman Alzawahiri, told VOA on the telephone that the attack was the group’s ‘handiwork’.
He said, “We are behind it and we are going to attack the entire North and other parts of the country, including the capital, Abuja.”
He said that some Boko Haram members returned from Somalia five days ago and had been scattered around northern parts of the country. He also advised residents of Northern states to be wary.
Earlier this week, the group had laid out its conditions for a ceasefire and government-proposed peace talks. However, Alzawahiri told VOA that for the moment, those efforts at reconciliation had collapsed and security agencies should prepare for intensified attacks.
Agence France Presse reported that Boko Haram had on Wednesday distributed a handwritten statements in Hausa to journalists in Maiduguri, in which it threatened a harsher campaign against government and civilians.
In the statement issued in the name of Jama‘atu Ahlis-sunnah lidda‘ati wal Jihad, it said, “Dialogue with President (Goodluck) Jonathan has collapsed,” because of the statements made by the Inspector-General of police and Borno state government . It said it was angered by Ringim‘s declaration that ”the days of Boko Haram are numbered.”
“Very soon, we will wage jihad…We want to make it known that our jihadists have arrived in Nigeria from Somalia where they received real training on warfare from our brethren who made that country ungovernable…,” said the group in the handwritten statement.
Military pledges cooperation
Reacting to the incident, the Director of Information, Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. Raphael Isah, said, “I totally agree with what the police spokesman said this (Thursday) afternoon. It is unfortunate but we will not yield any ground.
He added, “This time, it is an integrated approach and all security stakeholders will come together. We should not yield any ground to terrorism.’
A serving police officer told THE PUNCH that the force of the blast shook the entire Louis Edet House, causing a blackout there.
“I was in my office (on the fifth floor) when the blast went off. Initially, I thought it was an explosion from a construction site, but when I looked through the window, I saw a cut off leg on the ground and smoke billowing from the car park.”
A corps member, Miss Uchechi Amaefule, who had arrived Abuja earlier in the week, said she was on her way to the ECOWAS Secretariat in Asokoro when the bomb exploded.
She said, “I was with my uncle. He showed me the Federal Secretariat and then the Eagle Square. He pointed the way to the National Assembly to me. When we got to the end of the Federal Secretariat, I joined a bus while he turned to go to his office.
A young lady, who identified herself as Vera, said she lost her Honda Accord . The teary lady dangled the car key before one of our correspondents as she lamented the loss.
She said, “Look at my car, see how they destroyed it. I mean that Honda Accord is completely burnt. This is the key.
“I came to see the DIG Research. My sister was injured in the head. She has been taken to the hospital. I work with the National Assembly. In fact, when it happened, for 15 minutes, all I could see was the fire.”
Injured victims speak
A riot policeman, who had a bandage on his forehead, said, “I can’t just explain what happened because I am still confused over the incident. I was coming into the premises when the bomb exploded.”
Another victim, whose two forearms were bandaged, said, “It was at the gate that I heard the blast. The next thing I noticed was that blood was gushing from my body. Thereafter, I was rushed to Asokoro Hospital.”
However, 28 minutes later, two ambulances brought pieces of human parts tucked in five black cellophane bags. One of them was marked CT165A10 while the other belongs to the Red Cross.
Three children killed in Damboa, Borno
Meanwhile, three children were killed on Thursday when a bomb exploded around 2pm in a compound near a church in Damboa, headquarters of Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State.
Eyewitnesses told the News Agency of Nigeria in Damboa that the bomb exploded when the children were playing in the compound.
The Commissioner of Police, Borno State Command, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, confirmed the incident but declined to give further details.
Police tighten security in Lagos
Also on Thursday, the Lagos State Command of the Nigeria Police tightened security in and around its premises on Workyard Road in Ikeja GRA.
The police mounted checkpoints on the main access road to the command and checked vehicles and their occupants. This caused a gridlock on nearby Oba Akinjobi Road.
Visitors to the command were scanned and searched by policemen before they were allowed to enter the command’s reception.
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