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Borno gov escapes death, explosion rocks Suleja

iNSECURITY in the country seems to be on the rise, with the assassination attempt on Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State and the bombing of a Pentecostal church, in Suleja, Niger State, which killed an unspecified number of people yesterday.

Posted at 11/07/2011 11:19 AM | Updated at 11/07/2011 11:19 AM

By Simon Imobo-Tswam, Abuja and Atabor Julius, Lokoja

THE alarming level of insecurity in the country increased yesterday when a bomb exploded in a Pentecostal church, in Suleja, Niger State, killing an unspecified number of people, just as Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima escaped an assassination attempt through suicide bombing.

 

The Suleja blast, the third of such incidents this year, occurred during the Sunday worship at All Christian Fellowship Church, located on Church Road, around 3 p.m., causing extensive damage to some houses in the area.

 

An eyewitness told newsmen that many people were feared dead, just as others sustained varying degrees of injury. Policemen and Federal Road Safety Commission officers were seen ferrying the wounded to Suleja General Hospital for treatment, while the bodies of those confirmed dead have been deposited at the mortuary.

 

Security agents who intercepted a 10-year-old suicide bomber, bearing a bomb and approaching the governor, saved Shettima’s life. The governor and his entourage had gone to Kaleri, London Chiki ward, Maiduguri, to pay a condolence visit to the AA Kotoko residential area, following the hostilities that broke out between suspected members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect and security personnel in the area.

 

The Islamists allegedly tossed a bomb at the Joint Task Force in Kaleri and started a firefight with the military men after the bomb exploded. Although spokesman of the task force, Col. Victor Ebhaleme, told newsmen that “the attack was successfully repelled... and 11 members of the sect were killed while two members of the military task force were injured," witnesses also reported at least four civilian casualties.

 

Also Maj Gen. Jack Nwachukwu Nwaogbo told journalists in Maiduguri Sunday that six people and 11 suspected members of the sect were killed during the operation on Saturday evening. He declined to comment on how they died.

 

Ebhaleme also acknowledged, "some buildings and vehicles were destroyed.”

 

The suicide bomber who approached Shettima, whose name could not be ascertained as at press time, has been taken into custody, and the bomb subsequently defused by bomb disposal experts. Meanwhile, residents said the military task force went berserk after the daring attack in the housing estate at London Chiki. The security agents allegedly descended on civilians, whom they had earlier warned to refrain from supporting the militants.

 

Eyewitnesses said the soldiers arbitrarily shot and killed innocent civilians in the area after the Islamist militants had fled.  One of them, Usman Abdullahi, told newsmen that soldiers shot at people in the streets after accusing them of being sect members.

 

However, Nwaogbo, insists that the operation was a response to an attack that wounded five soldiers.

 

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sacrilege,” in the local Hausa language, has been responsible for a rash of killings targeting security officers, local leaders and clerics in the area over the last year.

 

A total ban on motorbikes in the city of Maiduguri has not stopped the militants, as they now use unmarked cars to carry out their deadly operations.

 

Following the Suleja blast, security agents immediately cordoned off the area, as onlookers watched the scene from a distance.

 

Confirming the terror attack, Niger State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Richard Oguche, said: “I am aware of the bomb blast in Suleja.

“I am on my way to Suleja to assess the situation on the ground, before I can give further information on the blast.”

 

Chief Press Secretary to the Niger State governor, Danladi Ndayebo, also confirmed the bombing, but declined to make any comment on the incident, because he had yet to be fully briefed on the situation.

 

The first bomb blast in Suleja, at a Peoples Democratic Party rally on March 3, killed seven persons, while the second explosion, at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, on April 8, killed 11 people.

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