Sect vows more attacks •Pope, Ki-Moon worried •US warns more bombings coming in Abuja •Federal Govt to publish list of terrorists, sponsors •Police inspector shot dead before his family
More attacks are coming, Islamic sect Boko Haram has warned.
The warning came as the death toll in last weekend’s attacks hit 150.
“We will continue attacking Federal Government foundations until security forces stop their excesses on our members and vulnerable civilians,” Abdul-Qaqa, a spokesman of the group, said yesterday.
The United States, also yesterday, warned of possible attacks in Abuja.
It says Boko Haram targets the major hotels mainly used by diplomats, politicians and the business elite visiting the capital city.
Boko Haram has twice attacked Abuja through suicide bombings at the police headquarters and the United Nations (UN) House.
Boko Haram launched co-ordinated attacks in Damaturu and Potiskum in Yobe State as well as Maiduguri in Borno State at the weekend. The death toll increased to 150 yesterday.
Ibrahim Bulama, an official of the Nigerian Red Cross humanitarian organisation, said the death toll was expected to rise as local clinics and hospitals tabulate the casualty figures from Friday’s attacks.
“I was involved in the evacuation of corpses to the morgue. I personally counted 150 bodies,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at the hospital. He said some families had already collected their loved ones for burial, reducing the number to 97 by end of the day.
The Red Cross earlier said the death toll stood at 63. The police said it was 53, of whom 11 were their men.
“From our inventory, 53 people have so far been killed in the attack,” said Yobe State Police Commissioner Suleiman Lawal.
A journalist described scenes of chaos and destruction in Damaturu.
“In fact, Damaturu is looking just like Libya … burnt cars and buildings.”
In a mainly Christian neighbourhood of Damaturu called Jerusalem, six churches were bombed, in addition to a police station.
“A police station and a mechanical workshop of the police were attacked. Six churches in the area were also bombed,” said resident Edwin Silas, adding: “The whole city is traumatised.”
Police Commissioner Lawal said the police were after the killers. He said: “We are ready for them, we are going to comb every place in the state, until we find and deal with them. Our men are ready.” He was quoted by Reuters.
He gave the official death toll as 53.
The unusually specific warning from the the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria identified possible targets of Boko Haram in Abuja as Transcrop Hilton, Nicon Luxury and Sheraton hotels.
The embassy said the attack may come as Nigeria celebrates the Muslim holiday and that its diplomats and staff had been instructed to avoid those hotels.
Deb MacLean, an embassy spokeswoman, declined to offer further details about the threat or the source of the information yesterday.
But the police assured all last night of adequate security in Abuja.
Deputy Force Public Relations Officer Yemi Ajayi said there was no cause for alarm as the police have strengthened security around the capital city.
Ajayi said: “I can assure you that we are fully prepared for any eventuality because the security arrangement in place is watertight. We are not leaving anything to chance and we are not taking the threat lightly.
“We have acted on the intelligence report at our disposal and we are assuring the Nigerian people that we are working round the clock to secure lives and property. We are on top of the situation.”
Boko Haram also yesterday killed a police inspector in Maiduguri, the sect’s spiritual home. Sect gunmen stopped the officer’s car at gunpoint as he neared a mosque to pray with his family, Police Commissioner Simeon Midenda said.
Gunmen ordered the family away, then shot the Inspector to death, Mr. Midenda said.
The sect members later allowed his family to drive the car away, he said.
The killing prompted a frank acknowledgment from the police commissioner, whose men remain under siege from constant assassinations by the radical sect.
“Our men who live in the midst of the Boko Haram are not safe,” Mr. Midenda said.
The UN Security Council described weekend’s attacks in Damaturu and Maiduguri as “criminal and unjustifiable” and asked members to help Nigerian authorities bring those responsible to justice.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for “an end to all violence in the area”, while offering sympathy for the victims.
Pope Benedict XVI also appealed for an end to all violence, saying it only increases problems, sowing hatred and division even among the faithful. He told tourists in St. Peter’s Square that he is following with apprehension the news from Nigeria.
An Associated Press count shows the Boko Haram has killed at least 361 people this year alone.
A mass exodus has hit Damaturu, the Yobe state capital following weekend’s bomb attacks. Many people mainly women and children were seeing leaving the state capital yesterday.
Also, unclaimed bodies at the Gen. Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital in Damaturu have started decomposing.
Our correspondent who visited the mogue noticed that some of the bodies that were brought to the hospital were not embalmed. It was also observed that the mortuary lacks the capacity to contend the situation. The entire section of the mortuary it was gathered has only one employee.
Police Commissioner Lawal told our correspondent on the telephone that the police are on top of the situation in the state capital and other parts of the state.
He said the re-enforcement of security in the state is to ensure that innocent lives are protected.
He called for calm by obeying the curfew in the state so as to avoid running into trouble with security operatives.
In spite their churches being burnt, Christians in Damaturu yesterday defied the security panic and held their Sunday service in open air at the premises of their burnt churches.
Eid-el-Kabir prayers observed by Islamic faithful who came out notwithstanding the precarious situation.
Our correspondent observed that some Christians conducted their Sunday service either under trees at the premises of their churches or in open air. But a lot of people stayed at home due to the security situation.
A member of the Living Faith Church Damaturu who does not want his name mentioned told our correspondent on the telephone that their “service though was held outside the church premises but went on hitch free”.
“We had a very hitch free service. Though it was held outside but we give God the glory everything was okay,” he said.
The Deputy Governor Abubakar Aliyu, commissioners, permanent secretaries and other government top functionaries observed the Eid-Kabir prayers.
Chief Imam, Uztaz Goni Ideni called for peaceful co-existence of all people in the country irrespective of tribe and religion.