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ABUJA, Oct 3, (Agencies): Two suicide explosions that ripped through the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital Abuja have left at least 18 people dead and 41 wounded, the National Emergency Management Agency said on Saturday. Both the Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari and US embassy condemned the attacks. “The death toll is now 18 because three people died in the hospitals this morning while 41 others were injured and are receiving treatment in the hospitals,” NEMA spokesman Sani Datti told AFP.
The agency had earlier given a death toll of 15 and 41 wounded following the blasts late on Friday near police station in Kuje and at a bus stop in Nyanya, in an area previously targeted by the Boko Haram Islamist group.
Datti told AFP a rescue operation ended Friday night. “We have completed evacuation of the victims. What is left now is to allow the special antibomb unit of the police to do their job. They are combing the scenes for fragments of explosives for their investigation,” he said. He said the entire area had been cordoned off.
The police said Saturday the bombings were the handiwork of suicide bombers. “Preliminary investigations revealed the bomb blasts were carried out by two suicide bombers — a male and a female,” the police said in a statement. It said the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, had ordered massive stop-and-search activities in the city and advised residents not to panic. “Following the incidents the police high command ordered an immediate deployment of police explosives ordnance disposal units to the scenes to prevent further destructions,” it said.
It urged Nigerians to be vigilant and report any suspicious persons or objects to the security agencies. The police chief vowed to work with other security agencies to rid the country of extremism, adding that “Nigeria will not accommodate terrorists’ acts.” Kuje, near Abuja’s airport, is some 40 kilometres (24 miles) from the city centre and seat of government. Its prison has been reported to be holding dozens of Boko Haram prisoners captured by troops.
The same bus station in Nyanya was hit twice last year. The first attack, on April 14 2014, left at least 75 dead and was claimed by the Islamists; the second, on May 1, left at least 16 dead. Abuja was last attacked on June 25 last year, when 22 people were killed in a blast at a popular shopping centre in the heart of the capital. Boko Haram later claimed the attack and a separate strike later that day in the Apapa port district of the financial capital, Lagos.
The Abuja blasts came a day after at least 10 people were killed when four suicide bombers blew themselves up Maiduguri, the restive capital of Borno state and 11 villagers died in neighbouring Adamawa state.
The bombings underscored the persistent threat posed by the Islamist militants, despite claims of military successes in recent weeks in driving them out of captured territory, arrests and mass surrenders. Since losing most of the territory it took over earlier this year, Boko Haram has reverted to hitting soft targets like markets, bus stations and places of worship as well as hit-and-run attacks on villages in the northeast. An AFP tally puts the death toll at more than 1,260 since Buhari took office on May 29 with a pledge to crush the insurgency. He has given his top commanders until early November to end the fighting, which has claimed at least 17,000 lives and made more than 2.5 million homeless since 2009. Buhari on Saturday condemned the bombings after being briefed by officials who visited the victims in Abuja. “The defeat of Boko Haram insurgency is in sight but to remove violence and make the country safe, we must tackle the prevalence of violent extremism,” he was quoted as saying in a statement.
The United States also condemned the blasts and other recent Boko Haram deadly attacks. “The United States strongly condemns the dual explosions in the Nyanya and Kuje areas of Abuja on October 2, and the suicide bombings and militant attacks in Maiduguri and Adamawa on October 1,” the US embassy said in a statement here. “We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed and injured,” it said. “These tragic events are stark reminders that violent extremists will stop at nothing to inflict horrific and indiscriminate harm upon innocent lives. In particular, Boko Haram’s reign of terror and sheer brutality have left thousands dead and millions displaced,” it added.