ABUJA. A morning rush hour bomb has killed at least 71 people at a bus station on the outskirts of Abuja, the deadliest attack ever on Nigeria’s federal capital.
Suspicion fell on Boko Haram, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s blast from the armed group battling Western influence, who are mainly active in the northeast.
As well as the 71 dead, police said 124 people were wounded in the first attack on Abuja in two years, the Reuters news agency said.
Security experts suspect the explosion occurred inside a vehicle, Air Commodore Charles Otegbade, director of search and rescue operations, said.
The bus station, 8km southwest of central Abuja, serves Nyanya, a poor, ethnically and religiously mixed satellite town where many residents work in the city.
“I was waiting to get on a bus when I heard a deafening explosion, then saw smoke,” Reuters quoted Mimi Daniels, who escaped from the blast with minor injuries to her arm, as saying.
“People were running around in panic.”
Bloody remains lay strewn over the ground as security forces struggled to hold back a crowd of onlookers and fire crews hosed down a bus still holding the charred bodies of commuters.
“These are the remains of my friend,” said a man, who gave his name as John, holding up a bloodied shirt.
“His travel ticket with his name on was in the shirt pocket.”
The attack underscored the vulnerability of Abuja, built in the 1980s in the geographic centre of Nigeria to replace coastal Lagos as the seat of government for what is now Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer.
Boko Haram, which says it is fighting for an Islamic state, has largely been confined to Nigeria’s remote northeast.
The group has been particularly active in the area over the past few months and is increasingly targeting civilians it accuses of collaborating with the government or security forces.