World Cup 2014 bomb threat: Nigerian state bans all public viewings as Brazil tournament starts over Boko Haram security fears

Officials say they have received intelligence of bomb threats

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The Independent Online

Officials in a Nigerian state have been forced to ban all planned public viewings of matches from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil over fears of militant bomb attacks, it has been reported.

For many in the north-eastern state of Adamawa, the screenings at large open-air venues were the only way they would have been able to watch the tournament.

Placed in a group with Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Argentina, Nigeria’s Super Eagles are strong favourites to progress through to the knock-out rounds and emerge as one of Africa’s star-performing teams.

But the threat of terrorist attacks from the extremist group Boko Haram means that thousands in the turbulent region will be denied the chance to witness their team’s performance live.

BBC News reported that officials said they had no choice but to ban the screenings after receiving intelligence reports of planned bombings, and that they regretted stopping Nigerians from watching the World Cup.

In both east and west Africa, experts say militant groups see the popular public viewings combining football and alcohol as a prime demonstration of “corrupting” Western influence.

Last week when suspected Boko Haram militants set off a car bomb that killed 18 people watching a match on television at a centre in Adamawa.

But it was an attack which resonated across the continent, bringing back memories in Uganda of an incident that killed dozens watching the last World Cup final in a Kampala sports ground four years ago.

Nigeria striker Uche Nwofor celebrates scoring his team's second goal in a warm-up friendly at Craven Cottage last month. The Super Eagles are hotly tipped to perform well at the World Cup this year

Two weeks ago a suicide bomber set out to strike an open-air screening of a match in Nigeria's central city of Jos. His car blew up on the way, killing three people.

And in the popular Tanzanian tourist destination of Arusha a blast wounded 15 people watching a Premiership match at a pub in April.

“There is a common credence amongst groups including Boko Haram that watching football matches is un-Islamic,” said Roddy Barclay, a senior analyst on the Africa desk for the company Control Risks. “Anyone participating in events that don't align with their vision is potentially a target.”

Nigerian football fans attend an open-air viewing of the 2013 African Cup of Nations final football match between Nigeria and Burkina Faso on 10 February, 2013 in Kano (AFP)

Earlier this week it was reported that Nigeria's army had issued a warning to tighten security at the viewing centres nationwide.

Before today’s ban in Adamawa, fans across the country’s north-eastern regions said they would take responsibility for their own security by going to friends' houses or just missing matches.

“Boko Haram appears to be targeting viewing centres, drinking joints, any social gathering. My wife has started warning me not to think of going to viewing centres this time,” said Ahmed Yusuf, a fan in the city of Maiduguri. It is the state capital of Borno which, as well as bordering Adamawa, is the region where Boko Haram militants abducted hundreds of schoolgirls in mid-April.

Nigerian army soldiers patrol the streets of Maiduguri, capital of the Borno state, on 24 May, 2013 (AFP)

Staff at the Albash Viewing Center in the central Nigerian city of Kaduna had installed a metal detector and started watching out for unfamiliar faces, said 33-year-old owner Bashir Idris.

“This is my only source of livelihood where I take care of those working under me, my wife and my seven children,” he said. “So we will not take any chances at all and we are praying to God to protect us throughout the World Cup.”