Blast outside Nigerian nightclub after security chiefs fired
6/23/2012 7:20:07 PM -
ABUJA (AFP) - A blast went off outside a nightclub in the Nigerian capital Abuja hours after the national security adviser and defence minister were sacked amid fears of spiralling violence in the country's north.
No casualties were reported in the explosion late Friday. Windows in the nightclub, a bank and a barber shop were shattered and a number of luxury cars were damaged.
"No human casualty," Yushau Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, said. "The explosives were suspected to have been planted on a tree opposite Kryxtal Lounge."
The popular nightclub is located in a district frequented by foreigners and the wealthy.
Shuaib said he did not believe there were many people there, though a security guard nearby said a crowd had been at the nightclub at the time of the blast, which caused people to flee in panic.
Nigeria has been hit by scores of bombings blamed on Islamist group Boko Haram, including some in and around Abuja.
A suicide bomb attack on UN headquarters in Abuja in August killed at least 25 people, while another at the Abuja office of one of the country's most prominent newspapers left four dead.
Prominent areas of the capital, including major hotels, have long been under tight security over fears of more violence.
Nigeria has been grappling with Boko Haram's insurgency for months, but criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan intensified this week after three suicide bombings at churches sparked reprisals from Christians who burnt mosques and killed dozens of Muslims.
There have been growing warnings that there could be more cases of residents taking the law into their own hands if something is not done to halt the Boko Haram attacks.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
Jonathan met with his security team on Friday after he returned from a UN environmental summit in Brazil. His decision to leave Nigeria on Tuesday for the summit as fresh riots broke out had also drawn heavy criticism.
After the meeting, Jonathan's spokesman announced the national security adviser and defence minister had been fired.
The new security adviser is to be Sambo Dasuki, a retired colonel, prominent northerner and cousin to the Sultan of Sokoto, Nigeria's highest Muslim spiritual figure.
He is also a former aide to ex-military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, an influential northerner who challenged Jonathan for the ruling party nomination ahead of 2011 presidential elections before eventually dropping out of the race.
It was not yet clear who would replace defence minister Bello Mohammed, who was widely viewed as ineffective.
The fired national security adviser, Owoye Azazi, is a political ally of Jonathan's, with both men from Bayelsa state in the oil-producing south.
Azazi faced suspicion in the north, particularly after comments he made in April which many took as indicating that the violence was politically linked.
Several days of unrest in parts of northern Nigeria have left at least 106 people dead.
The violence started Sunday in Kaduna state, with suicide attacks at three churches which killed at least 16 people and triggered reprisals from Christian mobs.
More rioting broke out in Kaduna later in the week, while on Monday and Tuesday, shootouts between security forces and suspected Islamists in the northeastern city of Damaturu left at least 40 people dead.
The initial suicide bombings were claimed by Boko Haram, whose insurgency concentrated in the north has killed hundreds.
Criticism has mounted over the government's response to the violence, with few public indications of what strategies are being employed beyond heavy-handed military raids to stop the onslaught of attacks.
Boko Haram initially said it was fighting for the creation of an Islamic state, but its demands have since repeatedly shifted. It is believed to have a number of factions, including a main Islamist wing.
Many say deep poverty and frustration in the north have been main factors in creating the insurgency.
The United States on Thursday said it had designated the head of the main branch of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, a "global terrorist" along with two others tied to both Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda's north African branch.