Abuja — The terrorist campaign rocking Northern Nigeria, yesterday, turned fatal towards the Nigerian media with simultaneous bomb attacks on Thisday Newspapers in Abuja and Kaduna, as well as The Sun and The Moment offices.
The apparently synchronized attacks left in its trail four casualties in Abuja, including the suicide car bomber. In Kaduna, a drama of sorts played out after the suicide bomber apparently changed his mind or was unable to drive into the commercial property housing Thisday, Sun and The Moment and alerted passersby of the presence of a bomb in his crashed Honda vehicle.
Forced to hurl out his deadly cargo by an irate crowd he threw the bomb towards some onlookers leading to the death of three of them.
Managing Director of Thisday Mr. Eniola Bello in a statement last night said:
"At about 11.05 am today, (Thursday) a suicide bomber drove an SUV into the premises of our Abuja office, rammed his vehicle into the building housing our printing presses, igniting a massive explosion and fueling speculations it was a suicide bomber. About the same time our Abuja office was under siege, the building housing our office, along with two other newspapers in Kaduna, came under another bomb attack.
"In Abuja, we can confirm the death of one security man by name, Christopher Sadiq. Three passers-by and the suicide bomber also died. Eight of our staff, who sustained injuries, are receiving treatment at the National Hospital. The roof of the building was blown off, the power generator burnt, the printing plant damaged.
"We regard the coordinated bombings as an attack on journalism and free speech. However, we want to assure our readers and advertisers that we remain committed to the fundamental principles on which the newspaper is founded: democracy, free enterprise and social justice. We will not be deterred in our pursuit of truth and reason. No amount of threat or intimidation will weaken our resolve."
The Sun management reacts
Sun newspapers in a statement by its Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, Mr Tony Onyima said: "At about 11.30 am today, Thursday, April 26, 2012 an explosion occurred at the premises of our North West Zonal headquarters in Kaduna, Kaduna State. The property located along Kontagora Road equally houses the state offices of two other media organisations, namely THISDAY newspaper and The Moment newspaper.
"The explosion occurred when a suspected suicide bomber, driving a gold coloured Honda Academy, with registration number AL 306 MKA rammed into the building.
"However, the bomb-laden vehicle failed to explode on impact with the building. But when the driver of the car jumped out and began to shout that there were bombs inside the vehicle and that they would explode any moment, angry residents and onlookers seized him and forced him to begin to dispose of the bombs. In the process one of them exploded killing three people and injuring several others.
"The angry youths then turned on the driver, and would have lynched him, but for the timely intervention of the policemen who had by then been invited to the scene by our North West Bureau Chief.
"Although there were casualties, no staff of The Sun died or suffered any physical injury.
The police and other security agencies have since moved in to investigate the matter. The security operatives have also taken custody of the driver and suspected suicide bomber.
"Despite this seeming set back, The Sun Publishing Limited, remains undeterred and refuses to be intimidated in its quest for a better and safer Nigeria. We will continue to report without fear or favour and with utmost sense of responsibility and patriotism".
The attack on the Thisday newspaper in Abuja also affected neighbouring buildings including the commercial property housing the Abuja office of Nigerian Tribune leaving glasses of buildings and parked cars shattered. Mr. Soji Fagbemi a journalist with Nigerian Tribune was partially bruised.
In Kaduna, a twist of fate saved workers and visitors to the offices of the Thisday, Sun and The Moment when their jointly rented property on Block A9, Kontagora Road was saved from a suicide bomb attack. The driver in the bomb-laden Honda car reportedly crashed his vehicle against the wall of the building sometime around 11.20 a.m. yesterday but the bomb did not detonate.
After coming under severe pressure, the bomber opened the bonnet of the car took out one of the Improvised Explosive Devices (EIDs) and flung it over the gate of the complex where it landed and exploded on curious onlookers killing three of them and injuring eight others according to eyewitnesses who spoke to Vanguard in Kaduna.
The Police in Kaduna, however, admitted only one fatality.
The Police also confirmed the arrest of the bomber, saying he was under their custody and taking treatment for injuries he sustained, ostensibly from the battering he got from the mob that first apprehended him.
Mr. Ismail Omipidan, North West Bureau Chief of The Sun told reporters about his experience when he arrived for work yesterday morning:
"I was driving to the office. Normally, I come through Katsina Road Roundabout, through the back, but this very day I just decided that I should park by the road side at the Ahmadu Bello Way because I was heading somewhere. In fact I was actually travelling out of town, so when I came into the office premises, I saw a young man being beaten. And I saw my circulation man beckoning on me. I also saw my landlord. I knew it had something to do with my office. The suspected bomber drove a Honda car into the premises according to the people I asked. The man even came out of the car and was shouting that a bomb will explode any moment, and the people held him and told him to go and remove the bomb. It was at this point I called the Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), DSP Aminu Lawan, and immediately after I called him, I took motorcycle to Magaji Garin police station. I told the police that people are beating a young man close to my office who is suspected to be a bomb carrier, and that they should go there on time so the people should not kill the man. So as I was coming with the police to the scene, the man was forced by the people to remove one of the bombs from the car, and as soon as he removed it, he threw it on the ground and it exploded immediately and three people died on the spot, in that process, the bomber disappeared, the people started looking for him."
"After sometime, some people went through the back door and they were able to get him, and police came and took him away. When police took him away, some youths started stoning the office. I don't know what their quarrel was, but I heard one of them saying that we refused to call the police on time. So out of anger, one of them decided to set ablaze the bomber's vehicle. But before the vehicle was set ablaze we told the police that we are suspecting that there are more bombs in the vehicle, but the police did not go near the vehicle until when that young man went in and set the car ablaze. While the car was burning, we saw two gas cylinders and by the time we moved away from there, one of the cylinders exploded. So it was one of the youths that set the car ablaze."
Jamil Abubakar, 22, drycleaner who witnessed the incident said:
"I came here to visit a friend when this thing happened. A man drove a Honda car vey dangerously into the office complex. I was coming from the other end. I saw it. He crashed on the wall. He came out of the car and started chanting, "laila inlala u..." . He started shouting, 'bomb! Bomb! Bomb!. People ran at him and grabbed him. They started beating him. They said he had to show them the bomb. He was well beaten. He was taken to the car. He opened the bonnet of the car and quickly took what looked like a bomb to me. It looked like it was manufactured. I was a bit far. But I saw when he flung the bomb over the gate of the complex and it fell on some of the people waiting outside to see what was happening. It exploded with a loud bang. I ran away. Fire started because some cars and motor bike caught fire. I came back and saw three corpses. I counted them they were three. That you cannot doubt it. But there were some people that were injured. Some of them were badly hurt. Maybe eight of them."
"In the commotion that ensued. The man that came with the car, escaped and hid in some part of the complex. But angry youth combed the place and found him."
He's not from here; he is taking treatment under our custody
Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Jinjiri arrived the scene of the carnage 12:35 pm. He inspected the scene and later fielded questions from the Press.
Said Jinjiri: "It is rather an unfortunate incident and we will want to first appreciate members of the public for their vigilance and for their prompt action. It is based on their vigilance and prompt action that really helped the situation and helped us get the principal suspect that is now with us receiving treatment at the Police clinic.
"Their action really helped to prevent devastation in this environment. So, I want to appreciate the members of the public and I want to call on them, to continue to be vigilant in order to help the situation. You can see that this is business centre and this is a point which is difficult for every agent to reach. But because members of the public are vigilant, we have been able to get a moderate situation. Some are injured and by our calculation, we have gotten only one that is late for now. But investigation is in progress.
The Public Relations Officer of Saint Gerald Catholic Hospital, Kaduna, Mr Sunday John Ali told Vanguard on phone that three injured people were brought to the Hospital.
"One of victims stomach was opened and his intestine was out. It is a very severe injury. He has been referred to the Ahmadu Bello University Referral Hospital, Chika, near Zaria. Two of the injured are with us and receiving treatment", he said.
Vanguard learnt last night that the Honda car used for the bombing was wired with 12 gas cylinders. A source said that if the IED had exploded in the car, it could have brought down the entire structure, and incurred a higher casualty figure.
How I survived the blast --Thisday Staff
A Thisday security man at the scene of the blast in Abuja said he escaped death by the whiskers because he had barely left the gate on patrol to another part of the building when the bomber arrived.
"I was with my men at the gate and just five minutes before the blast I decided to go on patrol to the other (main) gate which we had locked for security reasons only for me to hear a loud bang and I fell to the floor unconscious. I don't know how to thank God for sparing my life. Some of my colleagues are dead and injured," he moaned.
On what transpired before the blast, the security man continued: "I was told when I could recollect myself by one of the people around that the suicide bomber came in a black Jeep and was stopped by two of my security men at the gate but before they could check him properly he forced himself into the building and then the bomb exploded."
Vanguard learnt from another eyewitness that even artisans who plied their trade in the surroundings outside the Thisday fence were severely injured from the impact of the blast.
"Some of our friends who do small businesses around were badly injured including one mechanic who almost lost his hand from the impact of the blast despite being outside the premises."
It was like rapture
Mr. Soji Eze a Senior Correspondent with the Tribune newspaper in the adjoining building to the Abuja Thisday office who was present at the time of the bombing said yesterday that "it was like the biblical rapture as those of us in the office suddenly found ourselves in the air. "
"Immediately we landed we dashed out of the office and the first thing we saw was the hand of a man in gloves that must have been flung from the Thisday Complex."
He said another pathetic sight was a 12 year old boy who was totally naked but survived the blast but blood was still gushing out of his body.
Eze stressed further that "when we got to the outer part of Thisday Complex we saw the black CRV SUV that the suicide bomber used but we lost courage we could not go in. "
He said the mechanic workshop behind the Complex was a gory sight as most of the technicians there died only one was seen beckoning on us to come and help him."
Eze who had earlier told Vanguard that he simply went to the office to drop a few things before dashing to his beat at the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC said he had barely sat down when he heard the blast."
Rumours of other blasts a distraction, FCT CP
FCT police commissioner, Adenrele Shinaba, was quick to reassure Abuja residents yesterday as he quickly dismissed rummours of a another explosion at the Leadership Newspaper premises also in Jabi as a possible distraction by the unknown terrorists.
"We heard of another attack at Leadership just as we were here now but I think that is a distraction to move us out of this place because a very senior staff of Leadership was with me and called his people on phone if they are under attack and they confirmed to him that they were not under attack."
Scuffle between Police and SSS
Vanguard witnessed a scuffle between the police and the SSS over who should take charge at the scene of the blast inside the Thisday premises yesterday.
Another blast claims two in Kaduna
Five hours after a bomb exploded and left at least three persons dead on Kontagora Road, Kaduna, another one went off severely injuring two people carrying it on a motor bike, said Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Jinjiri.
Confirming the incident on telephone yesterday, Jinjiri said:
"It is true that a bomb exploded at Unguwan Mauzu, an exclusive Hausa area of Kaduna metropolis this evening. Two people were carrying it to a yet to be identified target. But it detonated and severely wounded the two people. We got them and took them to the 44 Army Referral Hospital, Kaduna".