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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Boko Haram Blast Kills 32 While Presidential Adviser Steals $2 Billion

Boko Haram believed behind blast in Nigeria that killed 32

Adviser to former president accused of stealing $2B meant to battle rebels
Thomson Reuters 
Police officers inspect the site of a suicide bombing claimed by Boko Haram militants at a market in Maiduguri , Nigeria, on June 2. The militants are believed behind the bombing in Yola on Tuesday that killed at least 32 people. ( Jossy Ola/Associated Press)

Boko Haram assault kills dozens in northeastern Nigeria

A blast struck a market in a  northeastern Nigerian city on Tuesday evening, killing at least 32 people and wounding 80 others, according to both the Red Cross and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

The explosion occurred at a fruit and vegetable market beside a main road in the Jimeta area of Adamawa's state capital, Yola,  around 8 p.m. local time.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the blast bore the hallmarks of militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has killed thousands over the last six years in its bid to create a state adhering to strict Shariah law in the northeast.

"Thirty-two people were killed and 80 have been injured," said a Red Cross official who asked not to be named. NEMA regional spokesman Alhaji Sa'ad Bello later gave the same casualty figures.

Suspected Boko Haram militants have carried out attacks in neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon in recent weeks, but have not struck northeastern Nigeria since late October when bombings in Yola and Maiduguri left at least 37 people dead.

"The ground near my shop was covered with dead bodies. I helped to load 32 dead bodies into five vehicles," said another witness, Alhaji Ahmed, who owns a shop in the market.

Tuesday night's blast breaks a three-week hiatus in bombings after a string of suicide attacks culminated in twin explosions in mosques in two northeastern cities that killed 42 people and wounded more than 100 on Oct. 23.

City filled with refugees

One of the mosques attacked was in Yola, where the insurgents struck again Tuesday. It was the third suicide bombing in as many months in a city overflowing with some of the 2.3 million refugees driven from their homes by the Islamic uprising.

Most victims were vendors and passers-by, said Deputy Superintendent Othman Abubakar, the police spokesman for Adamawa state.

Nigeria's military has reported foiling several suicide bombers recently, and killing and capturing insurgents as it destroys Boko Haram camps in air raids and ground attacks.

"The enemies of humanity will never win. Hand in hand, we will rid our land of terrorism," President Muhammadu Buhari said in a tweet.

Nigeria Arms Scandal
In a related development, Buhari  accused the former president's national security adviser of stealing more than $2 billion US meant to purchase weapons for the military to fight Boko Haram.

Nigeria's former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki (right) attends a hearing to face charges of possessing weapons illegally, at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria. Dasuki is now accused of stealing more than $2 billion US meant to purchase weapons for the military to fight Boko Haram rebels. (Associated Press)

'Phantom contracts'

Femi Adesina, an adviser to Buhari, says thousands of lives could have been saved if the money had been properly spent. His statement Tuesday accused Sambo Dasuki, a key adviser to former president Goodluck Jonathan, of awarding "phantom contracts" to buy 12 helicopters, four fighter jets and munitions that were never supplied.

The State Security Service had said Dasuki was refusing to answer questions about the arms deal. Dasuki has been under house arrest for more than a week despite a court order allowing him to travel abroad for medical care.

Adesina says Buhari has also ordered the arrest of several others linked to the scandal.

Suspected members of Boko Haram have killed an estimated 1,000 people since Buhari took office in May, vowing to crush the militant group. Since losing most of the territory it took over earlier this year to the Nigerian army, the militants have focused attacks on markets, bus stations and places of worship, as well as hit-and-run attacks on villages.