Easter tragedy: Blast kills 40, injures others in Kaduna

THE PUNCH Newspaper

A massive blast at the Junction/ Sardauna Crescent area of Kaduna on Sunday left many dead thus marring the Christian celebration of Easter in the northern state.

The devastating blast occurred as a suspected lone bomber said to be in a Honda car drove along the city.

Kaduna police said five people were killed but eyewitnesses put the number of dead victims at more than 40, made up mainly of commercial motorcyclists, black market fuel operators and passersby.

A similar attack on the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, by the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, last Christmas Day killed no fewer than 46 parishioners who had attended early mass.

As at the time of this report, the sect had not claimed responsibility for the Kaduna blast.

Many injured, buildings damaged

Many others sustained injuries while buildings in the vicinity, including hotels, residential houses as well as the All Nations Christian Assembly Church were affected by the impact of the blast.

The Public Relations Officer of the State Emergency Management Agency, Abubakar Zakari Adamu, put the figures of those killed in the blast at 36 while 13 people were seriously injured.

Adamu said,”We have seven persons at Rakiya Memorial Hospital, out of which five died while the remaining two were transferred to 44 Army Reference Hospital

“At the Army Reference Hospital, 20 people were seriously injured. Another 10 victims were taken to St Gerald Hospital; five have died while the remaining five were seriously injured

“At Barau Dikko Hospital, we have six dead, six injured. Twenty people died on the spot while on the whole 36 are dead and 13 are seriously injured.”

Blast massive – CP

The Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Abubakar Mohammed Jingiri, confirmed the blast and described it as “massive.”

Jingiri said intelligence report indicated that the bomber who drove a Honda car was heading to Kakuri and Sabon Tashe area, all in the Southern part of the state when the bomb went off at the Junction /Sardauna Crescent.

Abubakar said, “Today, April 8, 2012 at about 8:45hours, intelligence report received indicated that two suspected vehicles heading towards Kakuri / Sabon Tasha axis exploded while in transit.

“The two vehicles were pursued by Detective Corporal Francis Marcus, and then suddenly one of the vehicles hit the other, thereby causing a serious bomb explosion between the two vehicles on Junction Road by Sardauna Crescent.

“The bomb explosion was massive which resulted in the death of the suicide bomber and five persons with 16 people injured who were passersby.

“Police and other security agencies are investigating the issue and final report will soon be made public.

“I want to appeal to the people of the state to remain calm and to go about their lawful businesses and to report any suspicious movement to security agents for further investigation and action.”

There were unconfirmed reports that the bomber was heading for the ECWA Good News Church, Gwari Road.

Church guard’s encounter with bomber

A security guard with the church, Francis Markus, narrated to newsmen how the bomber who died in the blast attempted to force his way into the church but that he was repelled.

He said, “It was about 10 am when I saw a man coming to this street. He said he wanted to pass but I told him he could not pass because church service was going on and that we don’t normally allow people to pass when service is going on because of insecurity in the country.

“I advised him to pass after the church service but he insisted that he was going to his house. I asked him where his house was and he just pointed at one storey building in which I know many of the occupants. He asked me if I did not recognise his face because I work here every Sunday and I told him that I didn’t recognise his face. I stopped him from passing through the street, but he pointed at another house, saying that that was where he wanted to go.

“He came through Arochukwu Road at about 9.45am. He drove in Honda Accord car, ash colour. I told him that he could not pass through here. He accused me of violating his right for not allowing him to go to his house. I asked him to wait till after the church service before he could pass, but he insisted that he must pass. We dragged this for some minutes. He entered the car and reversed and drove towards me, yet I stood my ground and held the iron we used for the road block, he hit the iron against me. Luckily enough one of my church members came with his bike and parked and intervened. At this point, we noticed that the man was carrying Army uniform and cap.

“I chastised him for behaving the way he did as an Army officer. At this point again, I politely told him to move his vehicle and go. As we were talking, policemen drafted to the church came closer and the man drove away. About three minutes later, we heard the explosion across the road along Junction/Sardauna Crescent.”

A pastor at the All Nations Christian Assembly, Pastor Joshua Raji, said, “We were in the holy communion service and I was exhorting my people and all of a sudden, we heard a bang that shattered all our windows and doors, destroyed our fans and some of our equipment in the church.”

Eyewitnesses’ accounts

An eyewitness said the lone occupant of the car conveying the Improvised Explosive Device was dressed in a T-shirt and a combat short to march and that he had Army uniforms on the back seat of the car.

A survivor, Augustine Vincent, and his cousin, Aaron Idiawaje, who claimed they were on the motorcycle directly behind the bomber said that they were saved by the blood of Jesus.

Vincent said he was saved simply because it was on a day that Jesus Christ resurrected.

“We were on our way to Christ Embassy Church, on Kachia Road and God saw our heart and saved us,” he said.

Another eyewitness, who refused to give his name, told our correspondent that the suicide bomber drove in an Honda Accord car with Kaduna number plate , BB111DKA, and that he suddenly heard a loud blast from the vehicle. “When I came out, I saw more than 16 motorcyclists and passersby on fire,” he said.

Security agents were seen examining the charred remains of the bomber’s car. One of our correspondents report that the entire Junction/Sarudana area was strewn with charred motorcycles, debris from affected buildings and personal effects of victims of the blast.

One of the guests at the nearby Maraba Hotel, who came from Kano lamented that his vehicle, a Toyota Camry, was badly damaged by the explosion.

Also, a survivor, who simply gave his name as Tunde, said he was driving along the scene of the incident in company with two other persons when he heard an explosion that almost shattered his eardrum.

“When I look in front of my car, I saw smoke all over the place while fire was coming out from under my car. The man at the back seat of my car who is my mechanic was nowhere to be found, even when I called his mobile phone, it was switched off, and so my fear is that he might have died as a result of the explosion. In fact I don’t know how to thank God for surviving this bomb blast,” he said.

The Director-General of NEMA, Alhaji Sani Sidi, visited the scene and promised to foot the bills of all injured victims.

The blast in Kaduna came amid security concern in the north as Christians celebrate the Easter season which symbolise the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In an apparent reaction to the Kaduna incident, security was heightened in Kano on Sunday with Armoured Personnel Carriers deployed in major roads and detectives deployed around churches.

Also, security agents were said to have carried out stop-and-search on motorists at checkpoints mounted at many spots within the Kano metropolis.

But one of our correspondents reports that most Christians defied the tension brought about by the heightened security as they trooped out to their places of worship to celebrate Easter.

Pre-Easter warnings

Just before the beginning of the Easter holiday last Thursday, both the United Kingdom and United States of America issued warnings to their citizens to stay away from Borno, Niger, Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto and Yobe states, citing the fear of attack by Boko Haram.

The Presidency, in a statement by President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, however, said there was no cause for alarm and that the alert by the UK should be discountenanced.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” message on Sunday to mark Easter mentioned the case of terrorism in Nigeria and prayed for peace to return to the country.

“To Nigeria, which in recent times has experienced savage terrorist attacks, may the joy of Easter grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of its citizens,” the Pope said.


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