Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

#TECH 24

Mind the Gender Gap : getting more women into the tech sector

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Bolivian children: heading to work aged 10

Read more

  • Live: France says missing Algerian plane 'probably crashed'

    Read more

  • 51 French nationals aboard missing Algerian plane

    Read more

  • Algerian jet vanishes: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Deadly Israeli strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to easy victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European aviation agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death arrives in Italy

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

  • At least 60 killed in attack on prison convoy near Baghdad

    Read more

  • Cycling is ‘winning the war on doping,’ says expert

    Read more

  • Ceasefire agreed for Central African Republic

    Read more

  • Can Jew-kissing-Arab selfie give peace a viral chance?

    Read more

  • Botched Arizona execution takes nearly two hours

    Read more

Africa

Deadly explosion strikes UN building in Nigeria's capital

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-08-26

An explosion struck the UN headquarters in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Friday, after a car loaded with explosives rammed into the compound, killing at least 18 people. Local police are investigating who could be responsible for the blast.

REUTERS - A car bomb ripped through the United Nations' headquarters in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Friday, killing at least 18 people, in an attack reminiscent of a June blast claimed by a local radical Islamist group.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the final casualty toll was likely to be considerable, and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ordered tighter security around the capital after what he called a "most despicable assault".

Security sources and witnesses said the car rammed into the building and blew up, badly damaging parts of an office complex where close to 400 people normally work for U.N. agencies.

"We do not yet have precise casualty figures but they are likely to be considerable," Ban said, adding that the building housed 26 U.N. humanitarian and development agencies.

"This was an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others," Ban said in a statement to reporters. "We condemn this terrible act, utterly."

Body parts were strewn on the ground as emergency workers, soldiers and police swarmed around the building, cordoned roads and rushed the wounded to hospital.
"Different people have been taken to different hospitals so we're not sure of casualty figures. It is at least 18," said Mike Zuokumor, Abuja police commissioner.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack. However, one Abuja-based security source suspected the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, whose strikes have been growing in intensity and spreading further afield, or al Qaeda's North African arm.

"This is very likely the work of Boko Haram and, or, AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and is a serious escalation in the security situation in Nigeria," the security source said. "This is the worst thing that could have happened."

In Friday's attack the car slammed through security gates of the U.N. complex, crashed into the basement and exploded, sending vehicles flying and setting the building ablaze.

"When the car got inside it went straight to the basement and exploded, killing people in reception, right and left," said Abuja resident James John, who saw the attack. "The entire building, from the ground floor to the topmost, was just fire and smoke. I saw six bodies been carried. I can't believe it."

"All the people in the basement were killed. Their bodies are littered all over the place," said Ocilaje Michael, a U.N. employee at the complex.

The building was blackened from top to bottom. In places, walls were blown away and there were piles of debris.

Similar attack

Militant attacks in the oil-producing regions of southern Nigeria have subsided but the north has been hit by a round of bombings and killings by Islamist extremists.

Boko Haram, whose name translates from the local northern Hausa language as "Western education is sinful", has been behind almost daily bombings and shootings, mostly targeting police in the northeast of Africa's most populous nation.

The group claimed responsibility for a June bomb attack on the car park of the Abuja police headquarters which bore similarities to Friday's blast at the U.N. building.
In the June attack, a car rammed through the gates of the police headquarters in the capital and exploded, killing the bomber and narrowly missing the chief of police.

Boko Haram has mostly targeted police in Nigeria's remote northeast, which borders Cameroon, Chad and Niger. However, its ambitions are growing and if it were responsible for Friday's attack, this would mark a shift beyond domestic targets.

In London, Henry Wilkinson, associate director at Janusian risk consultants, told Reuters the attack suggested Boko Haram had evolved from being a parochial Islamist faction to one that also threatened international targets in Nigeria.

"This attack will prompt many Western organisations and business to reassess the threat the group poses," he said. "The targeting of the U.N. building indicates a more global outlook probably influenced by al Qaeda ideology."

In Abuja President Jonathan ordered tighter security. "The President believes that the attack is a most despicable assault on the United Nations' objectives of global peace and security, and the sanctity of human life to which Nigeria wholly subscribes," the state house said in a statement.

Security sources and diplomats are concerned that Boko Haram has links with more organised groups outside Nigeria.

These include Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which operates over the border in Niger and has kidnapped foreign workers there. However, it was also suspected of kidnapping a Briton and an Italian in Nigeria earlier this year.

In December 2007, a car bombing at the U.N. building in Algiers killed at least 41 people, among them 17 U.N. staff. In 2003, 15 staff and seven others were killed by a bomb attack at the U.N. building in Baghdad.

Top photo courtesy of Alkasim Abdulkadir on Lockerz.com.

Date created : 2011-08-26

  • NIGERIA

    Drinking spots targeted by deadly bomb attacks

    Read more

  • NIGERIA

    President vows to tackle terrorism after Nigeria's first suicide attack

    Read more

  • NIGERIA

    Powerful blast rocks police headquarters in Abuja

    Read more

COMMENT(S)