EIGHT persons were feared dead and 44 others injured on Thursday when a powerful bomb ripped through the car park of the Nigeria Police Force headquarters in Abuja.
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.