Kaduna — At least 82 persons were killed yesterday, and several others injured in two bomb blasts in Kaduna, targeted at former head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi. Both men, however, escaped unhurt.
In a statement he issued immediately after the incident, General Buhari declared that it was an assassination attempt and narrated how the suicide bomber tried to carry out the deadly assignment.
Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, in response imposed a 24-hour curfew on Kaduna town after the blasts.
In his reaction, President Goodluck Jonathan thanked God for sparing the lives of General Buhari and Sheikh Bauchi, and extended condolences to families of the dead, while commiserating with the injured.
The first bomb attack took place on Isa Kaita Road, off Ali Akilu road around 12:30pm, yesterday, when the convoy of Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi was returning home after he gave a Ramadan Tafsir sermon to thousands of Muslims of the Tijaniyya sect. The Police said 25 people were killed, but those who spoke to newsmen at the scene said about 40 died in the blasts.
Bauchi had escaped a bomb attack about three weeks ago near his home in Eskolia quarters of Kaduna.
The second blast took place around 2:30pm, about two kilometres away from the scene of the first blast at the busy over-head bridge at Kawo part of Kaduna town as Buhari was making his way out of town, leaving not less than 50 people dead.
Speaking to newsmen at the scene of the first attack, Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Umar Shehu said: "All I can say is that the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, and Road Safety Corps have told me that they recovered 25 corpses from this place. But you can see that we still have some human remains here. I cannot tell you the number of those injured at this point. That is all I can say".
But that differed from what some eyewitnesses said. One Isa Saidu, 23, gave his account thus: "I was at the Murtala Mohammed Square where Sheikh Dahiru preached to us. I was also in the convoy conveying him back home. It was a long convoy. Suddenly, I saw a man on a motorcycle carrying a sack or bag. He was driving very recklessly and defied the instructions of our security guard, who attempted to make him slow down. He then tried to come close to the car conveying the Sheikh but the security did not allow him.
"As he persisted, they pushed him off the road and he fell into a ditch, while the bomb device he was carrying exploded. I don't want to say what happened. Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi's body was covered with blood, but it was the blood of those who were protecting him. I can swear by Allah that I personally counted 41 bodies. It is the most terrible thing of my life," he said.
Others who spoke gave similar accounts. As news of the first attack spread through the state, another explosion took place two hours later.
According to eye witnesses, a man in a Sienna car had trailed the convoy of General Buhari from where it took off. An aide to Buhari, who asked not to be mentioned, told reporters that "the car overtook other cars and came very close to the SUV in which the general was. His security details tried to get in-between, then the Sienna car exploded.
"The security men's car was destroyed, and the three men were severely injured. The general's car was damaged badly, but because it was bullet-proof, he came out unhurt, and was transferred to another car and taken away," he said.
The explosion led to the killing of not less than 50 persons, according to those who came to the scene shortly after it happened.
About 22 cars were burnt and several people injured, Vanguard was told.
"There was no way more than 50 people could not have been killed", a reporter with a local radio station whose office was near the scene told some reporters.
"By the time we reached the place, there was so much blood and many corpses all over the place. I am too shaken to speak on this matter," he said.
But CP Umar Shehu said after visiting the scene that, "I am told that 14 people were killed and four were injured. I am told that a VIP car was affected, but I am yet to confirm to you. I shall update you in time".
I escaped assassination -- Buhari
General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), in his account of what happened through a statement six hours after the attack said:
"I was personally involved in a clearly targeted bomb attack today (yesterday) at about 2:30pm on my way to Daura.
Military officers walk past the remains of a car after an explosion on July 23, 2014 in Kaduna, north of Nigeria. A second blast in the city has killed at least 17 people, the national rescue agency said, after an earlier suicide attack in the city killed at least 25. An around-the-clock curfew was announced for the city after the bombings
"The unfortunate event, clearly an assassination attempt, came from a fast-moving vehicle that made many attempts to overtake my security car, but was blocked by escort vehicle. We reached the market area of Kawo where he took advantage of our slowing down and attempted to ram my car and instantly detonated the bomb which destroyed all the three cars in our convoy.
"Unfortunately, when I came out of my vehicle, I saw many dead bodies littered around. They were innocent people going about their daily business, who became victims of mass murder. Thank God for His mercy, I came out unhurt, but with three of my security staff sustaining minor injuries. They have since been treated in hospital and discharged".
In its reaction, the Jamaa'tul Nasril Islam, JNI, said:
"We are dazed over the news of the twin blasts in Kaduna city, which claimed the lives of many innocent Muslims in a Tafsir closing session of Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi, held at Murtala Muhammad Square, Kaduna and within a short while, another blast was said to have rocked Kawo in Kaduna.
"We therefore, condemn in the strongest terms these repeated acts of terror being unleashed on Muslims in this blessed month of Ramadan. JNI equally sympathizes with all the affected victims and also condoles with the families of those who lost their lives in the unfortunate incident. May Aljannatul Firdaus be the abode of all the deceased, Amin.
"As usual, JNI calls on all authorities concerned to be more committed to their responsibilities of protecting the lives and properties of Nigerians as no development can be achieved in a situation of fear, insecurity and chaos. All hands must be on deck to stop these unending massacre of lives and destruction of properties, as Nigeria is becoming a theatre of blood for no just cause, which must be stopped.
"Muslims should utilise the remaining days of Ramadan to complain to Allah, The Most Merciful, through vigorous supplications for relief, succour and ease against the evil masterminds of the nagging insecurity bedeviling our country.
"May Allah, The All-Mighty, The Compeller, The Supreme, and The All-Knowing, bring an end to this nagging evil, disgrace the perpetrators and grant us lasting peace, security, prosperity and a promising future full of happiness and development, Amin."
Meanwhile Kaduna State Governor, Alh. Mukhtar Ramalan Yero has imposed a 24-hour curfew on Kaduna State.
Yero condemned the bomb blasts that occurred in the metropolis, describing them as acts of cowardice' by those bent on creating tension in the state.
In a statement signed by his Director-General, Media and Publicity, Mallam Ahmed Maiyaki, the governor said the blasts were clear manifestations of the resolve by 'agents of darkness' to soak the land with the blood of innocent people for no just cause.
He said: "Enemies of peace have visited us with their ungodly venom of wanton destruction of human lives.
"This blast, coming in the Holy Month of Ramadan is a clear indication that those behind the act have no iota of fear of God, as they have none for the sanctity of human life."
Jonathan condemns bombings
President Goodluck Jonathan in his reaction to the bomb blasts thanked God for sparing the lives of General Buhari and Sheikh Bauchi. A statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati said:
"President Goodluck Jonathan condemns the bombings in Kaduna today (yesterday) which appeared to have targeted former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari and prominent Islamic cleric, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi.
"President Jonathan denounces the dastardly targeting of prominent political and religious leaders by terrorists and enemies of the nation in an odious attempt to inflame passions and exacerbate disquiet, fear, insecurity and sectional divisions in the country.
"While thanking God Almighty for sparing the lives of General Buhari and Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, the President extends sincere condolences to the families of those who were sadly killed by the bomb blasts.
"President Jonathan also commiserates with all those who were injured in the twin bombings in this Holy Month of Ramadan which defy the tenets of Islam, and provide further proof that the terrorists are nothing but blood-thirsty extremists bent on undermining the unity and progress of the nation.
"The President assures residents of Kaduna and all other Nigerians that the Federal Government will continue and further intensify its ongoing efforts to effectively curb the menace of terrorism in the country.
"He has specifically directed the Police and other national security agencies to take all necessary actions to apprehend the perpetrators of today's attacks on Kaduna and urges all residents of the city to give them the fullest possible cooperation and support as they work to bring the terrorists to justice".