July 13, 2012
A suicide bomber in northeast Nigeria tried to assassinate the traditional head of the Bornu kingdom, the Shehu of Borno, outside his mosque after Friday prayers. But the bomber missed his target and killed five others, police said.
The attempt to kill Umar Garbai el-Kanemi, who carries the title of Shehu of northeastern Borno state, was likely to be blamed on Islamist group Boko Haram, who have launched a wave of attacks in Nigeria.
The radical group has long stated their loathing for Kanemi, a hugely popular symbol of Islamic tradition in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north.
“A lone suicide bomber blew himself up while targeting some dignitaries coming back from the Friday prayers near the Shehu’s palace,” said Bala Hassan, the police commissioner in Borno.
“Five people have been killed,” he added, confirming the blast in the state capital Maiduguri, where Boko Haram is believed to be based.
The state’s deputy governor Zannah Mustapha said he was standing next to the Shehu when the bomber approached and that both narrowly escaped death.“It was God that saved me and the Shehu, otherwise we would have been dead by now,” he told AFP. The two were standing among others after prayers at the mosque near the Shehu’s palace when a young man of roughly 16 years of age approached.
“I heard a loud blast and it dawned on me that the young man had detonated a bomb. Luckily neither me nor the Shehu was injured, but our robes were splattered with human flesh and blood,” Mustapha said.
Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa of the military’s Joint Task Force in Borno said the blast went off at roughly 2:10 pm and that two soldiers assigned to guard Kanemi were “critically injured” in the attack.
The bomber killed himself, in addition to the five worshippers, the military and police said. No group has claimed the attack, but Boko Haram has targeted the Shehu in the past and claimed the assassination last year of Kanemi’s brother.
Boko Haram has said it wants to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria and has disowned traditional religious leader like Kanemi for allowing themselves to be ruled by Nigeria’s secular government.
In a statement released on Monday, the group also vowed to “continue to hunt for government officials, wherever they are.”
Boko Haram has operated in Nigeria since 2002 but intensified their attacks in 2009 and has claimed attacks killing more than 1,000 people since.
Attacks on mosques are rare as the group has typically targeted security services, symbols of authority and Christians, often during Sunday prayers.
Some have warned that the Islamists are trying to provoke a religious war in Africa’s most populous country, roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and mostly Christian south.
Nigeria has struggled to contain the Islamist threat and criticism of its President Goodluck Jonathan has mounted in recent months.
Since January, Jonathan has replaced his police chief and national security advisor amid the worsening violence.