Two explosions in northern Nigeria that killed at least 42 people probably targeted opposition leader and former military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari and a prominent Muslim cleric, President Goodluck Jonathan said.
The first blast yesterday in Kaduna’s city center killed 25 people followed by an explosion near a bridge that left another 17 dead, according to the government.
Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi had finished leading prayers in a downtown square at the time of the initial explosion and escaped uninjured, according to his son, Ibrahim Usman. Buhari, who belongs to Nigeria’s main opposition All Progressives Congress party, said he was traveling in a car at the site of the second blast. While he was unhurt, two of his assistants were injured and the vehicle was damaged, his spokesman Yau Darazo said by phone from Kaduna.
The attacks on opposition and religious figures are meant to “inflame passions and exacerbate disquiet, fear, insecurity and sectional divisions in the country,” Reuben Abati, spokesman for Jonathan, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
The Islamist militant group Boko Haram has carried out bomb attacks in the capital, Abuja, and northern cities such as Kano and Maiduguri in its campaign to impose Islamic law in Africa’s top oil producer. The insurgents killed at least 2,053 civilians in the first half of this year in 95 attacks, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“The scale and co-ordination of the Kaduna attacks are further worrying evidence that Boko Haram has effective operational cells in a number of cities across Nigeria,” Francois Conradie, a political analyst at NKC Independent Economists in Paarl, South Africa, said in an e-mailed statement today. “Wednesday’s attacks are more evidence of the deteriorating conflict risk in Nigeria.”
Nigeria suffers from the world’s deadliest “terror attacks,” with an average of 24 deaths per incident out of 146 recorded in the year through June, Bath, U.K.-based risk consultancy Maplecroft said yesterday in a report.
“These figures are very difficult to track but there is no doubt that we are seeing a massive intensification of attacks by Boko Haram,” Freedom Onuoha, a research fellow at the National Defence College in Abuja, said by phone.
The U.S. government condemned the bombings and urged Nigerian authorities to investigate the attacks, State Department Deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement yesterday.
“The United States deplores today’s twin bombings in Kaduna, Nigeria, which targeted Shaykh Dahiru Usman Bauchi, one of the country’s most respected Muslim scholars, during the month of Ramadan,” Harf said. “We are also concerned by reports that these blasts may have also targeted former head of state General Muhammadu Buhari.”