An explosion blamed on Islamic extremists rocked a shopping mall in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, and police said 21 people were killed.
The blast came as Nigerians were preparing to watch their country’s Super Eagles play Argentina at the World Cup in Brazil. Many shops at the mall have TV screens but it was unclear if the explosion was timed to coincide with the match, which started an hour later.
Witnesses said body parts were scattered around the exit to Emab Plaza, in Abuja’s upscale Wuse 2 suburb.
One witness said he thought the bomb was dropped at the entrance to the mall by a motorcyclist. All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Soldiers shot and killed one suspect as he tried to escape on a power bike and police detained a second suspect, Mike Omeri, the government spokesman for the insurgency, said in a statement.
Billows of black smoke could be seen from a mile (kilometer) away, and police said 17 vehicles were burnt out in the blast.
“I heard the explosion and (felt) the building shaking,” said Shuaibu Baba, who had a narrow escape. He said he rushed downstairs to find that the driver who had dropped him a few minutes earlier was dead. “I asked the driver to come with me, and he said ‘No,’ he would wait for me in the car.”
Police Superintendent Frank Mba said 17 people were wounded and 21 bodies were recovered.
Omeri urged people to be calm and said the government was doing everything possible “to check the activities of insurgents.”
It is the latest in a series of violent attacks blamed on Islamic extremists. Nigerian security forces appear incapable of curtailing the near-daily attacks concentrated in the northeast, where Boko Haram extremists have their stronghold.
On Tuesday night, extremists in the northeast attacked a military checkpoint and killed at least 21 soldiers and five civilians, witnesses and a hospital worker said on Wednesday.
A soldier who escaped said the militants also abducted several of his colleagues in the attack near Damboa village, 85 kilometers (53 miles) from Maiduguri, capital of Borno state.
The extremists attacked in a convoy of more than 30 trucks armed with anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers and powerful submachine guns while the soldiers had only AK-47 assault rifles, said the soldier, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.
He said he saw at least 16 of his colleagues gunned down before he ran away. A worker at Maiduguri’s main hospital said he counted the corpses of 21 soldiers brought to the morgue.
A federal intelligence officer also confirmed the attack, saying the soldiers were overrun. He also is not allowed to speak to reporters.
A spokesman for vigilante groups fighting Boko Haram, Muhammed Gava, said the extremists also killed five elderly men in the village that has been deserted by continued…