Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nigeria violence: Scores dead after Kano blasts

21 January 2012

Co-ordinated attacks by Islamist militants in the northern Nigerian city of Kano on Friday killed at least 120 people, witnesses and reports say.

Hospitals and mortuaries are struggling to deal with the numbers of killed and injured still arriving.

A series of explosions ripped apart police buildings around the city, which is now under a 24-hour curfew.

The Boko Haram group said they carried out the attacks, which would be their bloodiest assault to date.

Police have so far confirmed only seven deaths, but eyewitnesses said bodies had been littering the streets and wagons had been deployed to collect them.

Wave of attacks

A BBC reporter in Kano said he had counted 150 bodies in the mortuary of the city's main hospital.

The atmosphere in the centre of Kano is one of extreme nervousness. Crowds gather then suddenly disperse when they fear something might happen.

The army are patrolling streets, backing up the police. At one of the main mortuaries, officials are struggling to cope with the number of bodies. Special roadblocks have been set up, particularly around police stations that haven't been attacked.

Some reports suggest the attacks might have been carried out by suicide bombers - civilians who could easily hide a few grenades under their robes.
A hospital official told the AP news agency that 143 people had been killed.

An unnamed Red Cross source told the AFP news agency that 121 bodies had been removed from the streets by Saturday afternoon.

Boko Haram, which loosely translates from the local Hausa language as "Western education is forbidden", has been behind a string of attacks in recent years.

The group formed in 2002 and campaigned for Islamic law to be established across Nigeria, whose population is split between the largely Muslim north, and the south where Christianity and traditional beliefs predominate.

It first hit the headlines in 2009 when a spate of attacks by its followers on police and government buildings in the city of Maiduguri led to a crackdown in which hundreds died.

More recently, the group has launched bomb attacks on churches, drive-by shootings on government targets and other attacks across northern Nigeria, killing scores and forcing many more to flee.

But the Kano attacks appear to be the group's most deadly co-ordinated assault.

Who are Boko Haram?
The police said in a statement that four police stations around the city, the headquarters of the State Security Service (SSS), as well as passport and immigration offices had been targeted.

There was also a shoot-out at the headquarters of the state police in the city's eastern district of Bompai, reports said.

A local man, Andrew Samuel, described the scene of one blast: "I was on the roadside and I just heard a 'boom'. As I came back, I saw the building of the police headquarters crashing down and I ran for my life."

Witnesses said the bomber who attacked one of the police stations pulled up outside the building on a motorbike, dismounted and ran inside holding a bag.

Some unconfirmed reports have claimed suicide bombers carried out some of the attacks.

The BBC's Mark Doyle, in Kano, says he has seen one police station with its roof completely burnt off, though it was not clear whether this was caused directly by an explosion or by fire.

 He says the atmosphere is nervous, and a large crowd outside the police station quickly dispersed when soldiers arrived.

Nigeria's Channels TV said in a statement that one of its reporters, Enenche Akogwu, had been killed in the attacks .

It said he had been "shot by unknown gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect", outside the state government house.

The wounded were reported to include foreigners from an area near the SSS headquarters, which is home to many expatriates, particularly Lebanese and Indians.

A Boko Haram spokesman, Abul Qaqa, told journalists that it had carried out the attacks because the authorities had refused to release group members arrested in Kano.

Boko Haram: Timeline of terror
2002: Founded
2009: Hundreds killed when Maiduguri police stations stormed; leader Mohammed Yusuf captured and killed
Dec 2010: Bombed Jos, killing 80 people; blamed for New Year's Eve attack on Abuja barracks
Jun-Aug 2011: Bomb attacks on Abuja police HQ and UN building
Dec 2011: Multiple bomb attacks on Christmas Day kill dozens
Jan 2012: Wave of violence across north-east Nigeria

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