9 March 2013

Nigeria: Blasts Rock Maiduguri After Jonathan's Visit

Seven loud explosions shook Maiduguri yesterday, witnesses said, hours after President Goodluck Jonathan ended a trip there to try to galvanize support for his battle against Boko Haram insurgents.

Witnesses said the explosions happened within minutes of each other, suggesting the kind of coordinated strike that used to be the hallmark of the Boko Haram sect, before a military campaign weakened them.

Jonathan spent the night in Maiduguri, the epicenter of the insurgency. It was his first trip to the troubled North East since becoming president.

During it, he poured cold water on the idea of an amnesty for Boko Haram fighters and urged the region's elders to do more to help fight the insurgents.

The blasts in the Jajeri ward of the city occurred about five hours after he left in the afternoon, witnesses said.

"I heard seven explosions successively. They were huge, but I have no way of knowing whether the explosions hurt anybody," Jajeri resident Usman Abubakar told Reuters by telephone.

There was no word on casualties and a security forces spokesman for the North East was not immediately available for comment.

Earlier in the day, Jonathan told the elders to wheedle out Boko Haram members in their midst.

Traditional leaders accuse the security forces of being too heavy handed and indiscriminate, killing dozens of civilians.

"Instead of condemning the operations of the JTF (military and police joint task force) we should work to fight the insurgency," Jonathan said, replying to the criticism.

"Unless the Elders of Borno condemn and fight Boko Haram the people of the state shall continue to suffer from their attacks," he added.

Jonathan said on Thursday he was not ready to offer an amnesty to members of Boko Haram, brushing aside a proposal he Sultan of Sokoto.

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