Separate bomb blasts rock Nigeria's newspapers, at least six killed

While no one has taken credit for the twin blasts, the methods used in the attacks on the newspaper offices appear similar to those used by the Islamist fundamentalist group, Boko Haram.

Gbemiga Olamikan/AP
People gather front of the bombed office of ThisDay, an influential daily newspaper in Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday, April 26, 2012.

Separate bomb blasts went off today at the offices of Nigeria's major national newspapers in two cities, killing at least six and injuring at least 25 others, in what appears to be coordinated attacks.

The explosion at the Abuja office of Thisday, an influential daily newspaper, occurred at about 11:45 a.m. local time. Around the same time as the Abuja blast, an explosion rocked the building that houses offices for the Daily Sun, The Moment, and Thisday in the northern city of Kaduna.

 “NEMA officials are on the ground. They are trying to move those injured to the hospitals, but we don’t have any information on casualties yet,” said NEMA spokesperson, Yushau Shuaib.

While no one has taken credit for the blasts at the time of publication, the methods used in the attacks on the newspaper offices mirror those used by Boko Haram, the Islamist fundamentalist group, responsible for waging deadly attacks against the Nigerian government, United Nations offices, and against Christian churches and parishioners in the past two years.

Spokesman for the Nigerian Red Cross, Nwakpa O. Nwakpa, said a suicide bomber in Abuja rammed his car through the gates of the ThisDay office, driving into the reception area before detonating the bomb, killing and injuring people, and blowing out all the windows and the roof of the building.

The blast in Kaduna — which is reported to have killed at least one person, according to policeman Mohammed Abubakar — also involved a car with explosives, according to witnesses.

Idris Abdullahi, who works the New Nigerian newspaper that shares an office with ThisDay in Kaduna, said that people at the newspaper office surrounded the car, but the driver of the car opened the car and threw an object at the crowd. Mr. Abdullahi said that at least three people died in that blast.

Suspicion falls on Boko Haram, the Islamist fundamentalist group that has been waging a twin war in Nigeria to replace the country’s current secular government with Islamic law of Sharia, and exterminate all forms of Western education. Boko Haram has attacked Nigerian government offices, United Nations officials, and Christian churches across northern Nigeria killing hundreds this year, but this would be the first time the media would have been targeted in Boko Haram’s bombings and shootings, if Boko Haram proves to be culpable.

It is unclear why ThisDay or the other papers were considered targets. ThisDay is broadly supportive of President Goodluck Jonathan's government, according to some reports. 

President Jonathan, who is in Cote d’Ivoire for an Extra-Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), condemned the attacks on ThisDay offices.

In a statement on behalf of the organization signed by Media Rights Agenda executive director Edetaen Ojo also condemned what he called “a cowardly and dastardly” attack on media freedom and said: “We are extremely concerned by the apparent helplessness of the Federal Government as well as the law enforcement and security agencies in the face of this relentless onslaught on the Nigerian people which has caused hundreds of innocent citizens their lives in the past several months.”

Mr. Ojo called on the federal government to live up to its primary responsibility of ensuring the security and welfare of the people saying that it appeared to have failed in this regard.

He asked the government to devote all resources to find those responsible for these ongoing acts of terrorism and bring them to justice in order to end this climate of fear and impunity that has paralyzed governance, as well as commercial and social activities in many parts of the country.

Mohammed Garba, president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, also called for greater vigilance by the federal government. "Journalists are no longer safe in Nigeria," he said.

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