The authorities in Northern Nigeria are warning soccer fans that venues showing live coverage of the World Cup starting today may be targets of bomb attacks.
Police spokesman Frank Mba urged people “to exercise a lot of caution” and said in a statement yesterday that the security agencies will step up surveillance around viewing centers such as outdoor bars. The government has been battling militants loyal to Islamist group Boko Haram for the past five years.
A suspected suicide bomber killed three people on May 24 when his explosives detonated while he was driving toward a viewing site for the European Champions League soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the central Nigerian city of Jos.
During the 2010 World Cup, the al-Qaeda-linked militia based in Somalia, al-Shabaab, killed more than 70 people in twin bombings in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, at venues where crowds had gathered to watch the final on television.
Soldiers have closed venues preparing to screen World Cup matches in the northeastern Nigerian state of Adamawa to protect people from potential attacks, Ahmad Sajoh, a spokesman for the state governor, said yesterday. Adamawa has been under a state of emergency since May last year.
“Terrorists have previously targeted places where football matches are being viewed,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in its most recent travel advisory, issued on June 10.
“Most suicide bombers are strangers in areas they are trying to attack and that is the reason why most often they ask questions about directions, especially if they are the ones driving themselves to the scene,” Mba said.
The World Cup kicks off at 9:00 p.m. Nigerian time today when host Brazil plays Croatia.
Boko Haram’s April 14 kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, 386 miles (622 kilometers) to the northeast of the capital, Abuja, sparked international outrage and prompted the U.S. and the U.K. to send help to Nigeria to rescue them.
“Boko Haram remains primarily focused on delegitimizing the Nigerian government and terrorizing the Nigerian population, Muslims and Christians alike,” a U.S. State Department official, who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record, said on June 9.
Suspected Islamist militants abducted 20 women from near Chibok on June 8. Ethnic Fulani herders received a ransom demand of 40 head of cattle for each of those women, a local vigilante group leader said.
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