ABUJA: A bombing blamed on Boko Haram in the heart of Nigeria’s capital raised fears yesterday of a worsening Islamist insurgency, with security forces struggling to prevent attacks in remote villages and near the seat of government.
Wednesday’s blast, which killed at least 21 people, shook the crowded Emab Plaza as shoppers were buying groceries an hour ahead of the country’s World Cup match against Argentina.
The explosions struck “a very prominent street and it sends a very loud message”, said Nnamdi Obasi, Nigeria researcher at the International Crisis Group. “The message is that everywhere in the city is vulnerable.”
Dozens of soldiers and police guarded the Emab Plaza yesterday, with the main road in front closed off, traders denied access to their shops and the burnt out shells of cars littering the blast zone. Shell-shocked shopkeepers and witnesses swapped stories of near misses as they returned to the scene.
“I ran after a customer who was at that gate to give him his phone which he forgot in our shop,” said trader Suleiman Mohammed.
“I saw a large crowd of people there. The bomb exploded before I got back to the shop.”
Police and the country’s National Information Centre said on Wednesday that one suspect had been arrested after the explosion, while another was shot dead by troops as he tried to escape on a motorbike. The area, sandwiched between two other shopping centres and one of the busiest in central Abuja, was littered with body parts in the immediate aftermath and soaked in pools of congealed blood.