After a short lull, suicide bombers struck in Kano, the Kano State capital Monday, leaving scores of people dead and several injured.
Although THISDAY could not obtain the official figures of those killed in the serial explosions, which occurred at New Road in the densely populated Sabon Gari area of the state capital, other sources put the death toll at between 25 and 60.
Many others, whose number could also not be ascertained, were injured in the blasts.
Reacting to the bomb blasts, President Goodluck Jonathan condemned in strong terms the attack on the motor park, stating that it will not deter the Federal Government from its strong-willed determination to overcome those who do not mean well for the nation.
The president sent his condolences to the families of the victims of the blasts and the Kano State Government, stating that it will not be stampeded into abandoning its unrelenting war against terrorists in the country.
The bomb blasts also happened on a day the president had expressed the optimism that the seven construction workers kidnapped by an off-shoot of Boko Haram, Ansaru, on February 16 in Jama'are, Bauchi State, which the group claimed it had killed, might still be alive.
The Kano explosions, which occurred at about 4.45 pm during the peak period, were targeted at a motor park that is widely patronised by southern-bound passengers.
It was gathered that the bombers hit a Lagos-bound 59-seater luxury bus, which was blown up as it was departing the motor park.
Other explosions were also heard within the vicinity of the motor park.
While some sources claimed that the bombs might have been concealed in luggage, which had been loaded on the bus, others said the suicide bombers had positioned a Volkswagen Golf car, primed with explosives, between two luxury buses and detonated the explosives immediately the driver of one of the buses was about to take off.
Shortly after the car, rigged with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), went off, two other explosions rocked the motor park.
The impact of the explosions was so severe that it led to the dismembering of limbs of some of the injured victims.
"I saw three buses on fire. One of them was fully loaded with passengers waiting to leave the station at the time of the blasts. At the moment, there are at least 20 dead," said a rescue official who preferred anonymity.
The scene of the blast was cordoned off by men of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) to pave the way for the evacuation of both the dead and the injured, with the bodies of the dead were taken to the Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital mortuary, Kano.
Speaking on the incident, the JTF spokesman, Captain Ikedichi Iweha, said it was too early to ascertain the casualty figures.
"Our interest now is to ensure that the injured are taken to the hospital for treatment, while efforts are being made by fire fighters to extinguish the raging flames in the park," he said.
Also, a statement from the Head, Public Affairs, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Yashua Shuaib, said the casualty figures of the bomb blasts could not be ascertained yet.
"Rescuers and security personnel are yet to determine the source of the explosions that occurred at the motor park. While casualty figures are not available at the moment, the seriously injured have been taken to hospitals and bodies evacuated," he said
But the state Chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Tobias Idika, said from the records available to him, 60 persons died in the explosions while five luxury buses were burnt.
"This is the worst experience in the lives of the Igbo in Kano. We have lost over 60 souls, while five buses were burnt to ashes, which shows that we have always been the target of the attack, moving without protection," he said.
The AIG Zone 1, Mr. David Omojola, who visited the scene of the attacks, said except the police visited all the mortuaries and hospitals in the metropolis and its environs, they would not be able to give the casualty figures.
The AIG, who said he was accompanied by the Commissioner of Police (CP), Kano State Police Command, Mr. Musa Daura, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Emmanuel Okafor and other top police officers to the venue of the explosion, added that efforts were being made to ensure that the whole place is cordoned off against intruders and other criminally minded people.
However, prior to the multiple blasts in Kano, the president yesterday had expressed optimism that the seven construction workers in the custody of Ansaru, whom the group claimed to have killed, might still be alive.
He told visiting Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, whose citizens were among the kidnapped workers abducted in Jama'are, on February 16 that the Federal Government's analysis of the report on the purported killing of the hostages did not support the execution claim by the terrorist group.
Ansaru on March 9 had claimed that it had executed the seven hostages, citing an attempt by Britain security forces to rescue them as its reason.
The names and nationalities of the slain foreign workers are: Brendan Vaughan (British), Silvano Trevisan (Italian), Imad Andari (Lebanese), Carlos Abou Aziz (Lebanese), Konstantinos Karras (Greek), Ghaida Saad (F/Syrian) and Julio Alkhouli (Syrian).
A day after the reported killing, Britain, Italy and Greece had confirmed that the hostages had been executed.
Notwithstanding the confirmation, Nigeria has maintained that since the bodies of the hostages had not been found, it was possible that they might still be alive.
Jonathan yesterday reiterated Nigeria's position, saying: "Analysis of the information we have does not give us the conclusive position that they have all been killed but we suspect that some probably might have died of health-related causes or direct killing.
"We have been working hard with friendly nations, especially the United Kingdom to see that they are rescued. We suspect that they are in a rocky area, a very difficult area that cannot be easily accessed but we are working hard to get to them," he said.
Meanwhile, hope that another set of hostages, kidnapped by Boko Haram in Cameroun last month, might still be alive was rekindled yesterday following a report by the Associated Press (AP) of a video showing one of the hostages in which he claimed to have spoken with a family member.
The French man, who was abducted with his family last month in Cameroun, spoke in a recording made by Boko Haram and was obtained by AFP.
The recording was distributed to reporters by purported intermediaries of the Islamic group.
A source close to the family confirmed to AFP that the voice on the recording was that of Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, who was kidnapped with his wife, four children and brother while vacationing in northern Cameroun.
"It is indeed Tanguy Moulin-Fournier," the man said on the condition of anonymity.
The audio recording obtained by AFP was said to have been taken from a video.
In it, the man identified himself as Moulin-Fournier and read a statement in French and English, pleading with "our ambassador in Nigeria" to work to free them.
"I was arrested 25 days ago, with my wife, my four kids, the last one being four years old, and my brother who came from Europe, by an armed commando of Jamaatu Ahlisunnah Lidda'awatiwal Jihad," he said in English after his French statement.
"We have been detained for 25 days in a desert place. Living conditions are very hard," he added in the recording.
Moulin-Fournier also repeated previous Boko Haram demands for the release of prisoners in Cameroun and Nigeria.
Moulin-Fournier, in another statement seemed to be addressed to Cameroun President Paul Biya, asking him to free Boko Haram prisoners.
"They will liberate us if you liberate their men who have been arrested in Cameroun...," he said.
"They don't want to enter into conflict with Cameroun. However, if you arrest their (members) again in Cameroun, they will multiply the kidnapping and suicide operations in Cameroun, more than in Nigeria.," the hostage added.
Also Monday, a French Muslim politician of Algerian extraction, Mr. Rachid Nekkaz, volunteered to visit Nigeria next month to meet with the Boko Haram and Ansaru leadership to facilitate the release of the French hostages.
The Federal Government and Defence Headquarters however said they were not aware of the visit, with the Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Olusola Obada, adding: "Such a visit should be in his private capacity."
Nakkaz, a candidate in 2007 for the French presidential election and spokeman for the non-profit organisation 'Hands off my Consitution', had in a statement Monday co-signed by the organisation's president, Mr. Jean-Bruno Roumegoux, disclosed that they will be in Kano on April 1-7 "to meet with the heads of Ansaru and Boko Haram organisations."
He said their major aim of the visit was to address the French hostage situation and to ensure that the two Islamic extremist groups recognised the wider implication of their actions even to Muslim communities.
Reacting to the proposed visit, Obada stated that while there was no official confirmation of the visit, if there was, it is a private one that Nekkaz would be conducting in his personal capacity.
She emphasised that the visit must be premised on peace and mediation, warning that Nekkaz might be stopped if it is ascertained that he could worsen the security situation in the country.
The Director of Defence Information, Defence Headquarters, Col. Mohammed Yerima, also said he was unaware of Nekkaz's proposed visit.