Friday, June 17, 2011

Boko Haram suicide bomber attacks police headquarters

Boko Haram on Thursday mounted Nigeria's first suicide attack at exactly 11 a.m. in the heart of Abuja, tore through police headquarters, killed dozens, and destroyed over 74 vehicles, in a carnage that solely targeted the Inspector General of Police (IG), Hafiz Ringim, who was nearly, nearly murdered.

An Islamist slipped into town with two ladies to call his bluff.

Though the suicide bomber failed to get Ringim, the jihadist detonated the bomb, killed himself, and others, plus the two ladies, and set the vehicles ablaze.

Boko Haram, the fundamentalist Islamic sect also known as the Nigerian Taliban, had on Monday demanded the implementation of the Islamic Sharia legal code in 12 states in the North as part of conditions for dialogue with the government.

That was in response to President Goodluck Jonathan's overtures in New York last week that Abuja is willing to hold talks with the jihadists in order to end the violence concentrated mainly in the North.

Boko Haram also demanded the prosecution, under Sharia law, of some politicians, traditional rulers, and security forces accused of responsibility for the extra-judicial killing of its members since the sect began its uprising in 2009 - including its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, killed in July that year after his capture by security agents.

Force Headquarters Public Relations Officer, Olusola Amoren, told a press conference in Abuja on Thursday that the explosion was carried out by Boko Haram.

The blast came after Ringim vowed on Tuesday in Maiduguri to end the scourge of Boko Haram, whose brand of Islam condemns Western education as sin.

Sources at police headquarters said the suicide bomber drove a Honda car and, against regulations, trailed Ringim's convoy to the premises and attempted to park beside the vehicle Ringim alighted from.

A police officer stopped the man from switching off the ignition, prevented him from coming out of the car, placed him under arrest and asked him to drive to the general car park for proper checking and identification.

The bomber was about to park the Honda when a police traffic warden spotted three jerry cans in it. There were two women in the back seat.

An Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in charge of traffic, whose name could not be ascertained at press time, had entered the vehicle, sat in the passenger seat with the bomber driving, and directed him to the general car park where the search was to be conducted.

With fully armed policemen approaching to take part in the search, the bomber detonated the bomb, killed everybody within range, and injured scores of others nearby.

An eyewitness recounted: "When he was told to remove his car from the IG parking lot, he did not leave on time. He was apparently trying to detonate the bomb right there, but when the policeman shouted at him, he moved to the general parking lot where the bomb was detonated."

A police source said Ringim's convoy to force headquarters had been a subject of controversy on many occasions and if police officers insisted on routine check, they were often resisted by civilians who claimed they were his visitors.

"We have had some of our men even sacked for trying to check some vehicles trying to enter the premises. What they do is call one Oga who will say, 'Who are you not to allow so and so to enter the premises?'

"In my presence like this a policeman's rank was removed and sacked. So it is an issue here that we have been coping with."

The impact of the blast shook the huge police building to its foundation, shattered the windows of Wing A and Wing B with the glasses piercing the bodies of policemen in the offices.

Over 74 cars of police officers and visitors parked on the premises were consumed by the fire of the blast.

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Director General, Muhammad Sani-Sidi, sent a rescue and evacuation team to the scene, and ordered the use of specialised equipment to put out the fire as well as body bags to evacuate the victims.

Some vehicles were completely damaged.

Other agencies at the site included the Fire Service, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC), the military, the Red Cross, the police, and medical personnel.

As the fire was being put out, ambulances from NEMA, National Hospital, and Police Clinic conveyed the dead and the injured to hospital.

Human parts scattered all over the scene were cleared into body bags by NEMA officials and loaded into ambulances.

Some damaged but still movable cars were driven out of the premises splattered with blood and human flesh.

In their attempt to cordon off the blast scene, usually overzealous policemen hindered local journalists from covering the event but gave unrestricted access to foreign journalists.

Some journalists who could not find their way to force headquarters on time due to heavy traffic were delayed for hours at the gate by the policemen.

Two hours after the explosion, Amoren finally met with journalists hoarded into the conference room.

Amoren blamed Boko Haram for the attack and pledged that the police will not be cowed by the Islamic jihadists.

He reiterated the threat Ringim issued to the sect, saying the days of the sect are numbered.

He insisted that Ringim did not feel embarrassed by the brazen action and he will not resign because of it.

By 1:20 pm, the dead and wounded had been completely evacuated, except the suicide bomber whose charred remains were left in the completely burnt vehicle.

Tissues of his brain dropped out of the cracked skull.

Earlier, the loud explosion shook the National Assembly (NASS) complex and its environs followed by a thick smoke that enveloped the bright morning sky.

Minutes later, shreds of human flesh, mangled bones, burnt vehicles, and a thick smoke filled the air, and cries of agony erupted everywhere.

The vibration caused a panic at the NASS as people rushed out to see what had happened. The Sergeant-at-Arms, police and other security agents tightened security in the area, shut the main entrance gate, and searched incoming vehicles.

A few minutes later, fire fighter vehicles and NEMA vans blared sirens on their way to the scene at Louis Edet House, joined by NSCDC and police anti-bomb squad personnel.

Apart from the vehicles on the premises, the windscreens of cars passing through Shehu Shagari Way in front of police headquarters were smashed.

Wounded or traumatised children at a nearby crèche were rushed to Women Centre for treatment.

The crèche was damaged and the window glasses of all adjacent buildings were broken by the vibration.

At 5.30 p.m. when Daily Independent visited Aso Rock, tight security was noticed at the entrance gate which soldiers guarded with AK-47 riffles.

Traffic built up at the Supreme Court entrance to the Villa as motorists underwent extra screening and questioning before being allowed in.

The Head of Surgery at Asokoro General Hospital, Sule Ahmed, said the condition of the victims was stable.

Ahmed who is also the Coordinator, Federal Capital Territory Emergency Medical Services, told reporters that nine mobile policemen were brought to the hospital, the fourth time in a year it would treat victims of bomb blasts.

One of the victims, Mohammed Azare, who was admitted at the National Hospital, was brought out of the emergency unit after doctors stabilised him after about two hours.

Reacting to the incident, Senate President David Mark pleaded with the security agencies to rise up to the challenge and end rampant bomb explosions in the country.

A statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh, urged them to look inwards and arrest the situation forthwith.

He expressed grave concern over the spate of bomb blasts, which he said is a threat to the security and corporate existence of Nigeria, as "no nation has ever progressed or survived in the midst of terror."

Mark contended that no matter the grievances or anger in a man's heart, resort to violence, terrorism or wanton destruction of lives and property cannot be a way out.

He said there are established channels of addressing any issue, and unorthodox means would only create more harm.

Mark stressed that the security challenges demand collaboration and synergy among all security agencies to bring the situation under control.

He implored all Nigerians to be security alert and co-operate with the security agencies, stressing that "those committing these heinous crimes do not live in the moon, they live among us.

"I do not think that resort to killings or terrorism would answer our questions. The real answer lies in our ability to come together as a people and address our common problems.

"No one can claim monopoly of any knowledge; we can all contribute our quota positively and make our society a better place."

He pledged that the Senate and indeed the NASS would make adequate budgetary provision for the security agencies to carry out their assignments unhindered.

He sympathised with Ringim, and urged him not to be deterred but reinforce his operations in order to stop the carnage.

However, the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) demanded the resignation or sack of Ringim in a statement issued by its Programme Coordinator, Okey Nwanguma, who described the attack as a shameful failure of intelligence.

"Three days ago," Nwanguma recalled, "Ringim was in Borno State to take delivery of police equipment donated by the state government.

"He threatened that the days of Boko Haram were numbered. Angered, Boko Haram said they were no longer interested in dialogue with (Jonathan) which they had previously agreed to, with conditions. They further threatened fiercer and wider attacks in the Northern states and Abuja.

"Today, they made good their threat, starting from force headquarters, Ringim's own backyard. This is scandalous. It is a clear message to the IG, who only two days ago, made empty scandalous boasts. It shows clear and shameful failure of intelligence.

"If Nigeria's number one law enforcement and security agency could be so cheaply infiltrated and attacked, clearly Nigeria and Nigerians are unprotected and defenceles."

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) weighed in by warning that Nigeria risks descending into unmanageable anarchy if the insecurity threatening lives and property is not tackled.

Lagos ACN Publicity Secretary, Joe Igbokwe, said suicide bombers successfully infiltrating police headquarters is a sign that national insecurity has indeed got worse.

What is left of security, he wondered, if bombers can effortlessly break through police firewall and detonate explosives?

On Tuesday, State Security Service (SSS) personnel discovered the bomb on the rail track near the bridge behind Danbo International School in Barnawa Government Reserved Area (GRA) in the heart of Kaduna.

It was intended to destabilise the state government rail service that daily plies the route - 24 hours after a bomb was found at the gate of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) staff quarters in the Narayi area of the city.

The device on Tuesday was discovered at about 10 a.m. after four hours of search by SSS personnel acting on intelligence.

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) in charge of the police anti-bomb squad, Patrick Effiong, explained that the explosive could have caused "massive destruction of the rails turning them into fragments, and even the buildings."

Terror fears first materialised on the night of May 30 in co-ordinated bomb explosions in Abuja and other parts of the North, taking 15 lives and leaving 55 injured, a few hours after Jonathan was inaugurated President amid tight security.

Thirteen died and 40 were injured in Bauchi, two died and 11 were injured in Abuja. Four were severely injured in Zaria.

Boko Haram bombed a military patrol vehicle in one attack in Maiduguri. Abuja suffered bomb blasts on October 1 last year, and Bauchi and Maiduguri were in the grip of the violence that erupted after the Presidential ballot on April 16 this year.

Militants had threatened to disrupt the Presidential inauguration. They did not succeed. However, a bomb blast at exactly 8 p.m. at a beer parlour at Zuba International Market, Abuja marked the closure of the Presidential inauguration.

The explosive was kept in a Baco sack under a table. The blast injured 11 persons, including a girl aged one year and two months.

Two persons died, one a girl aged six who gave up the ghost on the way to hospital. Igbokwe lamented on Thursday that "We had been inundated by sterile and empty threats and vows of arresting the masterminds of each fresh bomb incident and such vows have always ended as rituals, which are kept in store for another bomb incident and the violent circle goes on unhindered."

ACN expressed concern that Nigerians are becoming targets of ceaseless bomb attacks and other forms of violence while Abuja feels so overwhelmed to do something about them.

It said it is disturbed about the perception that the government can do nothing to stop the violence threatening to swallow the entire country in one huge ball of insecurity.

It insisted that something urgent and radical must be done to re-take Nigeria from the hands of bombers and restore the security of lives and property.

A special task force should be set up, the ACN canvassed, to purge the security agencies of their embarrassing incompetence.

Daily Independent

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