A massive bomb blast ripped through a packed bus station on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital of Abuja on Monday, killing at least 71 people and injuring more than a hundred. It was the deadliest attack the city had ever seen.
The bomb struck the station during the morning rush hour, as hundreds of people boarded buses to commute into the city. The blast, which tore a hole in the ground some four feet deep, is believed to have ignited vehicle fuel tanks that resulted in subsequent explosions.
Disfigured bodies were scattered all around the area. Dozens of coaches and vans were engulfed in flame and destroyed.
This graphic video shows the immediate aftermath of the explosion, with dead bodies on the ground and vehicles burning.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, although suspicions quickly fell on Boko Haram, the Nigerian jihadi group that has been waging a bloody insurrection in the country’s northeast. According to Amnesty International, attacks by Boko Haram militants in that region have resulted in the deaths of some 1,500 civilians this year alone.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan didn’t hesitate to associate Monday’s attack with the group.
“The issue of Boko Haram is quite an ugly history within this period of our own development,” he said after visiting the scene. Describing the violence as “unnecessary distractions that are pushing us backward,” Jonathan added that he expected the threat posed by Boko Haram would be “temporary.”
“Surely, we will get over it,” he said.
The attack in Abuja, which lies in the center of Nigeria, could mark a significant shift in geographical focus for the terrorist group. The group’s last documented assault on the city took place two years ago, when a suicide car bomber drove into the office of a daily newspaper, killing two others. In 2011, a car bomb was driven into the reception area of a United Nations building in the city, killing at least 21 and injuring 60.
Recently, Abuja has been relatively safe thanks to government security measures. The fact that Monday’s blast was carried out on the city’s fringes rather than its center is regarded as a reflection of heightened security within the city.
But the attack is an ominous indication that the unabating violence of the last several months might be spreading from Nigeria’s unruly northeast into the rest of the country.
Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi