Chaos in Northern Nigeria
The North Africa Journal | At least 120 people were killed in the troubled northern Nigerian city of Kano on Friday, the country’s second largest city. A series of bomb blasts were reportedly coordinated by the Islamist organization known as Boko Haram.
Boko Haram’s recent offensive comes as retaliation following a government crackdown and arrest of its members. The crisis pitting the central government and Boko Haram escalated after the death of its leader Muhamed Yusuf in 2009 while being held by the police.
Given the escalating crisis, a 24-hour curfew has been imposed in Kano. A suicide bomber set off a huge explosion at the office of Kano's Inspector General of Police at about 5:00 p.m. local time Friday. Within minutes, blasts could be heard at several other locations throughout the city. Most of the targets appeared to be police stations.
Witnesses described chaos in the streets as people fled in panic, by foot and in vehicles, with sirens blaring and gunshots echoing around them. Reporter Salusi Radiu of VOA's Hausa Service says he counted more than two dozen blasts over a 90-minute period.
"It was just a rough estimate, but it was estimated almost 30, about 30 exploded at different police stations. At some places it was just the bomb that exploded, in other places there were gunshots before the bomb," Radiu said.
Officials estimated scores of people were killed, including the suicide bomber and other attackers who died in gun battles with police. Witnesses said several police officers and a journalist also perished, but Kano's emergency coordinator, Abubakar Jibril, told VOA a full casualty count would be delayed because of a city-wide curfew.
"In fact, nobody can tell you the casualties because they are from different points. We will have to go to different hospitals around before we gather the number of casualties," Jibril said.
Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the Muslim extremist sect Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language means, “Christian education is sacrilegious.” A spokesman for the group telephoned journalists to say the bombings were in retaliation for the arrest of several Boko Haram members in Kano.
Boko Haram was also blamed for a bomb that went off outside a Catholic church near the capital, Abuja, on Christmas Day. Nearly 40 people were killed in that attack.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan had declared a state of emergency in several northern regions after the Christmas Day attacks, but Kano had been relatively free of violence, and was not included in the emergency area. NAJ with VOA News.
Who is Boko Haram? Watch this video.