Was a Group with Ties to Al-Qaeda Behind the U.N. Bombing in Nigeria?
The bomb-laden Honda Accord that slammed through two sets of front gates at the United Nations compound in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja on Friday morning was the vehicle for the boldest terrorist attack yet perpetrated by Nigerian militants. The blast that ensued when the car’s driver pulled into the reception area and detonated his cargo punched gaping holes in the building’s first two floors, left the attacker’s body in three pieces, and killed at least 18 U.N. workers, injuring eight others. As emergency workers rushed to the capital’s leafy diplomatic area, easing the wounded down on stretchers, fingers pointed to the Boko Haram, the radical Islamic sect responsible for a recent string of attacks, including a deadly June bombing of the city’s police headquarters.
Worldwide condemnation came quickly, including from U.S. President Barack Obama, who said in a statement that, “The people who serve the United Nations do so with a simple purpose: to try to improve the lives of their neighbors and promote the values on which the U.N. was founded — dignity, freedom, security, and peace.” Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned what he called a “barbaric, senseless and cowardly attack.” The attack was the deadliest on the U.N. since 17 U.N. civilian staff members were killed along with dozens of others in two terrorist car bombings that targeted the U.N. and other premises in Algiers in December 2007.
By Friday afternoon, a spokesman for the Boko Haram told the BBC in a phone call that it had carried out the attack. He was speaking with the BBC’s Hausa language shortwave radio service, which is widely listened to throughout Nigeria’s Muslim north. The sect has reported links to al-Qaeda, and has made such claims before to the service.