Car bomb blast kills 16 in UN building attack

A car laden with explosives rammed through two gates and blew up at the United Nations' offices in Nigeria's capital Abuja today, killing at least 16 people and shattering part of the concrete structure.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it "an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others".



The brazen attack, carried out as the four-storey UN offices teemed with staff, comes as Africa's most populous nation faces the growing threat of both homegrown and international terrorism.



UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said: "We do not have any confirmation as yet who was responsible."



But suspicion fell on Boko Haram, the Muslim sect with reported links to al Qaida that wants to implement a strict version of Shariah law in the nation and is vehemently opposed to Western education and culture.



Witnesses said a sedan rammed through two separate gates at the UN compound as guards tried to stop the vehicle.



The suicide bomber inside crashed the car into the main reception area and detonated the explosives, inflicting the most damage possible, a spokesman for the Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency said.



"I saw scattered bodies," said Michael Ofilaje, a UNICEF worker at the building, which he said shook with the explosion. "Many people are dead."



The Nigerian Red Cross reported at least 16 people died in the attack, with at least 11 others injured.



Nigerian Health Minister Mohammad Ali Pate made a public appeal for blood donation on the widely listened-to BBC Hausa language service, saying there were at least 60 injured people at the National Hospital in Abuja.



The buildings, known as UN House, had offices for about 400 employees working for 26 UN humanitarian and development agencies. Authorities were still trying to account for everyone in the building at the time of the blast.



"We condemn this terrible act, utterly," secretary-general Ban told reporters at UN headquarters. "We do not yet have precise casualty figures but they are likely to be considerable. A number of people are dead; many more are wounded."



The building, in the same neighbourhood as the US embassy and other diplomatic posts in Abuja, houses offices of a number of UN agencies including the UN Development Programme, UNICEF and the UN Population Fund.



The explosion punched a huge hole in the building. Workers brought three large cranes to the site within hours of the attack, trying to pull away the concrete and rubble to find survivors. Others at the site stood around, stunned, as medical workers began carrying out what appeared to be the dead.



"This is getting out of hand," said a UN staffer who identified himself as Bodunrin. "If they can get into the UN House, they can reach anywhere."



Ali Tikko, who was in a building 100 yards from the site of the blast said: "I heard one big boom."



Local police spokesman Jimoh Moshood said police are investigating. In a statement, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's office called the attack "barbaric, senseless and cowardly." The statement also promised to increase security in the nation's capital.



"President Jonathan reaffirms the federal government's total commitment to vigorously combat the incursion of all forms of terrorism into Nigeria, and wishes to reassure all Nigerians and the international community that his administration will spare no effort to bring the perpetrators to justice," the statement read.



The secretary-general said he was sending Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro and UN security chief Gregory Starr to Abuja immediately to meet with Nigerian authorities and to "respond to this emergency."



Oil-rich Nigeria faces terrorism threats on multiple fronts.



Nigeria, a nation of 150 million, is split between a largely Christian south and Muslim north. In recent months, the country has faced an increasing threat from Boko Haram.



The sect has carried out assassinations and bombings, including the June car bombing in Abuja of the national headquarters of Nigeria's federal police that killed at least two people.



Earlier this month, the commander for US military operations in Africa said Boko Haram may be trying to link with two al Qaida-linked groups in other African countries to mount joint attacks in Nigeria.



General Carter Ham said during a visit to Nigeria that "multiple sources" indicate Boko Haram made contacts with al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in north-west Africa, and with al-Shabab in Somalia.



"I think it would be the most dangerous thing to happen not only to the Africans, but to us as well," he said.



Last year, a militant group from the country's oil patch, the Niger Delta, blew up car bombs in the capital during Nigeria's 50th independence anniversary ceremony, killing at least 12.

AP

Suggested Topics
Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style
tech

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Are you a Teacher interested in Special Needs?

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified Teacher w...

**ESOL**

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job:* The Tutor will prepar...

Qualified Teaching Assistant Jobs in Blackpool

Negotiable: Randstad Education Preston: Qualified Teaching Assistant Jobs in B...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album