Over 40 people were killed Wednesday as twin bomb explosions ripped through Kaduna State in north-western Nigeria.
The first explosion occurred along Isa Kaita Road close to the popular Murtala Mohammed Square, targeting a prominent Islamic cleric, Dahiru Bauchi.
The blast killed 25 people, and injured many more, police said.
At the bomb scene close to the square where Mr. Bauchi delivered a Ramadan lecture, dismembered bodies lay strewn on the blood-stained soil.
Wednesday’s blast was the second targeting Mr. Bauchi in Kaduna State in the last two three weeks. The first explosion near his house injured one person.
The Sheikh is a known critic of the extremist Boko Haram sect, but it not clear whether the group is responsible for the Wednesday attack.
As news of the attack spread across the state, and the country, a second explosion occurred barely two hours later, this time targeting a former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari.
The blast occurred as Mr. Buhari drove through the busy Kawo Market area of Kaduna city.
In a short statement, Mr. Buhari said he was the target of the bomber.
“I was personally involved in a clearly targeted bomb attack today along Ali Akilu Road, Kawo-Kaduna at about 2:30pm on my way to Daura,” Mr. Buhari said.
“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 my 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,” Mr. Buhari said.
The former leader said when he came down from his vehicle, he saw many dead bodies littered around.
“They were innocent people going about their daily business who became victims of mass murder,” he said.
At least 15 persons died in the second explosion.
The Spokesperson for the Department of State Security, SSS, Marylyn Ogar, said the first attack took place about two kilometres from the venue of the Ramadan prayer session because the insurgents could not move their vehicle closer due to heavy security presence.
The spokesperson of the All Progressive Congress, APC, Lai Mohammed, said the explosion was targeted at the former head of state.
“Yes, his convoy was attacked,” Mr. Mohammed said in response to PREMIUM TIMES enquiry. “He narrowly escaped but some of his aides were hurt. The General is ok, but perhaps traumatised.”
A loyalist of Mr. Buhari, Rotimi Fashakin, said the former head of state was on his way to his home town – Daura in neighbouring Katsina state – when he was trailed by the bomber and attacked.
“I’m sure political Boko Haram are behind the attack,” Mr. Fashakin said. “General Buhari was the target of the attack.”
The leader of a pro-Buhari pressure group, The Buhari Vanguard, Jasper Azuatalam, said the former Nigerian leader was possibly attacked over his recent criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Recall that two days ago, Gen Muhammadu Buhari issued a statement warning President Jonathan and his government on their attempt to muscle the opposition and endanger Nigeria,” Mr. Azuatalam said. “The Presidency raised an eyebrow to the statement.”
The police had earlier confirmed that 25 persons were killed in the first explosion.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Governor, Ramalan Yero, has imposed a 24-hour curfew in Kaduna metropolis following the twin explosions that rocked the city.
Mr. Yero condemned the explosions, describing the acts as the height of ‘cowardice’ by those bent on creating tension in the state.
He said the curfew, which took effect immediately, became necessary to enable security agencies to restore normalcy to the troubled city.
A statement by the governor’s spokesperson, Ahmed Maiyaki, quoted Mr. Yero as blaming the explosions on ‘agents of darkness’ bent on soaking the land with the blood of the innocent.
“Enemies of peace have visited us with their ungodly venom of wanton destruction of human lives,” the governor said. “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.”
Mr. Yero said despite the success recorded in improvement of security in the state, it had now become obvious that more still needed to be done to safeguard the lives and properties of residents at all times and in all places.
He called on the people of the state to consider such unwarranted attacks on innocent people across the state as aggression by evil against good that must be collectively condemned by all.
The governor urged residents of the state to be more vigilant with happenings around them and avoid unnecessary crowded areas.
He also advised residents to provide more support to security agencies by providing useful information on suspicious movements and persons within and around their communities.
“The time has come for us to eschew all our differences and confront these brazen attacks as a united people,” Mr. Yero added.
“Those behind these attacks have no regards for whatever diversity as their victims cut across all ethnic and religious divides. It is a responsibility on all of us to unite against this common enemy.”
The governor also commiserated with the families of victims of the blasts and directed security agencies to intensify surveillance while also pursuing the perpetrators of the blasts.
Similar attacks have occurred in many parts of Northern Nigeria.
In May, the Emir of Gwoza, Shehu Mustapha Idris Timta, was shot dead in an attack carried out by Boko Haram insurgents.
The then Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, had survived an assassination attempt in January 2013 when suspected insurgents opened fire on his convoy.