Friday, January 20, 2012

Kano rocked by Boko Haram bombs

At least seven people were killed as explosions and gunfire rocked the biggest city in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north after Friday prayers. The radical Islamist sect Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Eyewitnesses described panic and pandemonium on the streets of Kano as residents ran for cover and plumes of smoke rose into the sky.

One explosion ripped through the city's police headquarters soon after 5pm, causing an unknown number of casualties. Police kept reporters away from the building, which had its roof torn off and windows blown out.

Witnesses said a bomber had pulled up to the building on a motorbike before getting off and running at it, holding a bag. "We tried to stop him, but he ran in forcefully with his bag," said a policeman at the scene. "All of a sudden there was a blast. You can see for yourself the building is damaged."

An Associated Press reporter said the explosion had been powerful enough to shake his car, which was several miles away.

Two other police stations and an immigration office in Kano, Nigeria's second-biggest city, were also hit, according to a BBC report. The explosions were followed by the sound of gunshots.

Officials could not be immediately reached for comment to say what had caused the blast or whether there had been any injuries. A spokesman for the Nigeria immigration service in the capital, Abuja, said officials in Kano had told him the blast shook their nearby office and was caused by a bomb.

Secondhand accounts quickly emerged on Twitter. Alkasim Abdulkadir, whose profile describes him as a freelance journalist, tweeted: "Got off the phone with a journo in Kano, as he was racing to safety, a bomb exploded in the area he was heading to."

Jeremy Weate, who blogs about Nigeria, posted: "My friend in Kano reports: 'It's bloody serious. The city is closed down with shooting now going on in all parts of Kano.'"

The chaos erupted as Nigeria faces a growing threat from Boko Haram. It has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in a campaign to implement strict sharia law across Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people, roughly equally split between Muslims and Christians.

Courtesy: Guardian UK
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