The death toll from a car bomb that exploded on a busy road in Nigeria’s capital rose to 19 overnight, police said on Friday from the city that within days hosts an international conference.
The bomb was driven near a checkpoint where traffic built up, located across the road from a busy bus station where a massive explosion on April 14 killed at least 75 people. That blast was claimed by the Islamic extremist Boko Haram terrorist network.
The government is deploying 6,000 police to protect the May 7-9 World Economic Forum in Africa, with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as an honored guest, in Abuja. It attracts world leaders, policymakers, philanthropists and business leaders to discuss Africa’s economic growth prospects. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan assured delegates last week they would be safe.
Police Superintendent Frank Mba told reporters Friday the toll is up to 19 dead with as many wounded being treated in the hospitals. Six cars were burned up in the blast, he said.
Witnesses said a car laden with explosives drove close to the checkpoint and a man jumped out and ran as it blew up. A deafening explosion was followed by smaller ones as other cars caught fire and fuel tanks exploded, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fears for their safety.
The attacks are a major embarrassment that undermine government and military assurances that the Islamic extremists had been contained in a northeastern corner of the country.
Hours after the April 14 car bombing, which wounded at least 141 people, Boko Haram militants kidnapped more than 250 teenage girls at a school in the remote northeast, which is the militants’ stronghold. About 50 of the girls escaped their captors, but 200 remain missing.
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