At least 21 people are dead in the Nigerian capital of Abuja after an explosion occurred at a shopping center one hour before the country began playing against Argentina at the World Cup in Brazil today. It is not clear if the attack had any connection to the World Cup tournament. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, Boko Haram is strongly suspected.
Details are still emerging on the explosion. One witness commented that he thought a bomb was dropped at the entrance to Emab Plaza by a motorcyclist. Another witness claimed that it was car bomb.
Today’s bombing in Abuja was preceded by a series of attacks in northern Nigeria. On June 23, an explosion rocked Kano’s School of Hygiene in northern Nigeria, killing at least eight people and injuring several others. The blast “tore through an area just inside the main gate, where students often gather at food kiosks between classes.” Boko Haram is suspected of being responsible for the attack.
Over the weekend, Boko Haram fighters also attacked several villages in Borno state in Nigeria’s northeast. According to residents, the attackers wore military uniforms as they went on a six-hour shooting spree in Kwarangilam and Koronginim. Reports stated that at least 40 people were killed in the towns. The Nigerian military reportedly intervened to end the attack, bombing the surrounding area hours into the group’s offensive.
Boko Haram is also suspected of kidnapping 60 girls and women, and 31 boys, from another village in Borno on June 21. Aji Khalil, a leader of a local group set up to defend villagers, said: “Some suspected Boko Haram members invaded … and kidnapped 91 persons. More than 60 married women and young girls as well as children, young men were forcefully taken away by Boko Haram terrorists. Four villagers who tried to escape were shot dead on the spot.” Questions remain as to the accuracy of the reports, however. Government officials have yet to confirm details of the events and the number of people abducted.
In mid-April, the group successfully kidnapped 276 school girls from their boarding school in Chibok in Borno state. Although 119 students escaped the group’s initial attack and 57 girls have since escaped, 219 school girls currently remain unaccounted for and are presumably still in the hands of Boko Haram.
Striving to build an Islamic state in Nigeria, Boko Haram has been increasing the frequency and deadliness of its attacks in recent months. The group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US in November 2013.