Abuja blast: Car bomb attack rocks Nigerian capital

Will Ross reports on fresh security fears over next week's World Economic Forum in Abuja

A car bomb attack has killed at least 19 people and injured 60 more in the Nigerian capital Abuja, officials say.

The explosion happened in the suburb of Nyanya, close to a bus station where at least 70 people died in a bomb blast on 14 April.

Witnesses said the explosion targeted a police checkpoint near a bus station.

No group has said it carried out Thursday's attack. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram said it was behind the fatal explosion last month.

Analysis

Around Abuja there are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends searching for missing loved ones.

With this, the second attack in less than three weeks, there are mounting worries over the nation's insecurity. It is not clear why the suburb of Nyanya was targeted once more. If it was Boko Haram again, it could be the Islamist insurgents' way of saying: "You cannot stop us even where you put your checkpoints."

On top of the dreadful insecurity in the north-east and the plight of the missing schoolgirls, this is more bad news for the government. Abuja is hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa next week, so leaders from across the world are expected in the city. They will not be mingling with the crowds at bus stations but the worry is that cursory security checks are unlikely to stop another car bomb from being detonated elsewhere in this city.

There is of course anger with the government, especially as the annual security budget has almost doubled over the past five years to $6bn (£3.6bn) and people are asking: "So why are we not safer?"

The BBC's Will Ross in Abuja says Nyanya is a religiously mixed area and it is not clear why the area has been targeted.

Fears over security

Charles Osueke, who was in the area at the time of the blast, told the BBC that it was just 200m (650ft) away from the 14 April explosion.

"People in the crowd were saying that a man parked his car, walked away and the next thing they know, the car blew up," he said.

"I'm worried about our security here. After the last explosion, the president said he would increase security," Mr Osueke added.

"There were policemen around when this explosion happened and they didn't manage to stop it."

The head of Nigeria's Emergency Management Agency, Abbas Idriss, told the BBC that 19 people were killed in the blast and 60 others were injured.

Most of Boko Haram's attacks have been in the north-east of Nigeria.

But the bombing on 14 April raised fears that the militants could be trying to expand their area of operation.

In a video message after that attack, the group's leader Abubakar Shekau said: "We are in your city but you don't know where we are."

Car burns following a bomb blast in Abuja on 1 May 2014 Witnesses said that moments before the explosion, a man had parked the bomb-laden car and walked away
People gather close to the site of the explosion in Abuja, Nigeria - 1 May 2014 There was heavy traffic on the road at the time, with many commuters waiting for buses
People who were injured are on stretchers at Asokoro general hospital in Abuja on 1 May 2014 The wounded here were taken to Abuja's Asokoro general hospital
Woman reacts at the scene of the bombing in Abuja on 1 May 2014 It is the second deadly bombing in the area in recent weeks, fuelling fears among residents for their safety
Security men stand guard outside Asokoro hospital in Abuja, Nigeria - April 16 2014 Security has been stepped up in Abuja amid fears that Boko Haram is moving its focus to the capital

The latest attack comes just days before Abuja is set to host the World Economic Forum on Africa. Figures released last month showed Nigeria is now Africa's biggest economy.

Insecurity will be a major concern: Several world leaders, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, are due to attend the event.

Correspondents say the blast comes at a terrible time for Nigeria, which is also dealing with the abduction of 230 schoolgirls that happened hours after the previous Nyanya attack.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for international military assistance to be offered to Nigeria in the hunt for the girls.

"We could provide military help to the Nigerians to track down the whereabouts of the girls before they're dispersed throughout Africa - like air support, for example, if that was thought necessary," he told the UK's Guardian newspaper.

A 60-second guide to Boko Haram

Last week, an advisor to Nigeria's president said the government would welcome international assistance.

The Boko Haram insurgency has led to the deaths of some 1,500 people this year, human rights groups say.

The group has hit Abuja several times before, including an attack on the United Nations national headquarters in 2011.

But before 14 April, there had not been an attack in the capital for two years.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is forbidden" in the region's Hausa language, has been waging a campaign of gun and bomb attacks since 2009.

Satellite image showing Nyanya motor park

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