Kano — A suicide bomber targeting luxury buses full of passengers detonated a car bomb at a busy motor park in Kano yesterday, killing dozens of people and injuring many others.
The blasts happened along New Road in Sabon Gari, shortly after 5pm when luxury buses were preparing to travel to other parts of the country.
Witnesses said at least five luxury buses that were hit by the explosions were completely destroyed.
Survivors told our correspondent that a suicide bomber drove a Volkswagen Golf car into the motor park, meant for passengers traveling to the southern part of the country, and rammed into a Lagos-bound bus which was driving out of the park with dozens of passengers on board.
The resulting explosion destroyed the vehicle and set fire to others within the vicinity. There were reports of a second explosion soon after the first one.
Witnesses said many passengers, park attendants and hawkers were caught in the explosions and were burnt beyond recognition, while many others sustained various degrees of injuries.
There were conflicting figures of the dead yesterday, with some witnesses saying as many as 60 people were killed.
President of the Ohaneze Ndigbo in Kano State, Chief Tobias Micheal Idika, who said he arrived at the scene immediately after the blast, put the casualty figure at over 60.
"I counted over 60 dead bodies and up till now bodies are being removed," he said.
A female survivor Fatima Abdullahi, who was on a business trip to Port Harcourt, told Daily Trust she saw many bodies on the ground after the explosion.
"We could see people engulfed in flames inside other buses just before our own also caught fire," she said
"The police later started evacuating the dead ones in carts and placing them in vehicles. All the passengers in the first bus perished, as well as other people on the ground, including the attendants that sold ticket to me."
She added that all her luggage and those of her would-be co-travellers were completely destroyed by the resulting fire.
Another witness, Ibrahim Bello, was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying: "I ran for my dear life and managed to get out of the park after the second blast. Many people are lying dead. See, my clothes are covered in blood."
A medic quoted in agency reports also said: "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."
A security source confirmed witness accounts of the incident, saying five luxury buses were burnt and scores of passengers killed.
He said at least 20 dead bodies had been counted while many others were trapped in the burning buses.
A mechanic, Tunde Kazeem, who works at the motor park, said the explosion was "followed by billows of black smoke and there was a lot of confusion with people rushing out of the motor park, some of them with blood on their clothes."
Another security official told Daily Trust that up to 80 passengers were on board one of the affected vehicles and that probably less than 10 of them survived.
He said the casualty level in the attack was the highest after the coordinated attacks in Kano on January 20 last year in which at least 180 people were killed.
Many of the victims were taken to various hospitals within Kano metropolis, including the Armed Forces Hospital, Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital (MMSH), Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) and others.
At the MMSH our correspondent counted four severely burnt bodies being moved to the morgue, while dozens of injured people, including women, were being treated at the accident and emergency wing. Many relations of the victims thronged the hospital crying.
A neighbour to one of the victims told our correspondent that his friend, who was a mechanic, had gone to the garage to work when the incident occurred, leaving him with an injured leg.
Spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, Yushau Shuaib, said: "Rescuers and security personnel are yet to determine the source of explosions that occurred this evening at a motor park. While casualty figures are not available at the moment, the seriously injured have been taken to hospital and bodies evacuated."
No group has claimed responsibility for yesterday's attack up to the time of filing this report last night. But suspicion is likely to fall on the insurgent group that claimed previous deadly strikes in Kano.
Last year, an explosion of smaller magnitude at the same park left some people dead and others injured.
Meanwhile, security agents have cordoned off the scene of the attack, even as Daily Trust gathered that flames from the blast were yet to be put out by nightfall.
When contacted last night, spokesman for the Joint Task Force in Kano, Captain Ikedichi Iweha, said security agencies and emergency workers were still battling to put out the fire at the scene and evacuate remaining victims to hospital.
He said the casualty figure could only be released after he got figures from hospitals where the affected persons were taken to. "We have not been able to go round the hospitals to count the people affected, but the figure is not as high as people are speculating," he said.
Jonathan condemns blasts
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has condemned, in strong terms, the blasts in Kano.
In a statement, Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati quoted the president as saying the barbaric incident would not deter the Federal Government from its strong-willed determination to overcome those who do not mean well for the nation.
He said that the Federal Government would not be stampeded into abandoning its unrelenting war against terrorists in the country. The president reassured Nigerians and foreigners in the country that government would do the needful to ensure the safety of lives and property.
He said that government would continue to collaborate with local and international partners and stakeholders to check the menace of terrorism.