Nigeria bombing death toll rises to 15; world condemns blasts

The attacks were claimed by Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

Abuja: Several countries have condemned the three explosions that rattled the Nigeria`s 50th independence day here even as the death toll has risen to 15.

Condemning the attacks, Nigeria`s President Goodluck Jonathan promised that those behind the act "will pay dearly for this heinous crime”.

Nigeria`s former colonial master, Britain, condemned the act and promised to partner with oil-rich African nation to bring the attackers to book even as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon denounced the attacks.

The United States also condemned the attack and condoled with families of those who lost their lives.

Canada condemned the bombings, saying "Canadians stand together with the Nigerian people in deploring this act of terrorism. We will continue to assist the people and government of Nigeria as they strive to improve security and consolidate democracy and the rule of law."

Yesterday, three explosions, including one at the venue where the Nigerian President was present just 40 metres away, rocked the country`s 50th independence day celebrations. But the ceremony went ahead despite the explosions.

About 15 foreign leaders, including a representative of Queen Elizabeth 11 and a delegation from India led by Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid were present during the attack.

The explosions came after Nigeria`s main militant group sent a warning that there is "nothing worth celebrating after 50 years" as the people of the Niger Delta have had their land and resources stolen.

Describing the attack `as an act of terrorism aimed at the heart of Nigeria`, a prominent Islamic group, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), denounced the bombing.

Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had earlier claimed responsibility for the attack by issuing a warning ahead of the explosions.

"MEND has no moral justification for carrying out this attack which has claimed innocent lives because there is an amnesty and rehabilitation programme going on," MURIC said.

One of the explosions occurred at the Eagle`s Square where Jonathan was present to witness the military formation.

Another explosion at the millennium park near the Eagle Square, killed at least seven people, an eyewitness said.

More than 22 injured persons were evacuated to hospitals in the city for urgent medical attention.

MEND sent an e-mail message before the explosion warning that there is "nothing worth celebrating after 50 years" as the people of the Niger Delta have had their land and resources stolen. "Several explosive devices have been successfully planted in and around the venue by our operatives working inside the government security services. In evacuating the
area, keep a safe distance from vehicles and trash bins," MEND had said in a statement.

The group argued the people of the Niger Delta have been deprived of control over their region`s resources.

"The Constitution before independence which offered resource control was mutilated by illegal military governments and this injustice is yet to be addressed," the group said.

The group which claims to be fighting for resource control in the Niger Delta region claimed responsibility for detonating two car bombs in the Niger Delta city of Warri on on March 15 this year.

MEND, which is part of a group of rebels fighting for resource control in the Delta region, said "a third and most powerful" bomb did not explode but would be used for future attacks.

Militants in the delta have targeted pipelines and resorted to kidnappings, while fighting government troops since 2006.

Late president Umaru Musa Yar`Adua had granted amnesty to the militants but MEND had rejected it, opting for a negotiation with the government through mediators.


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