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Boko Haram bombers blamed for 28 deaths
From the Financial Times of Tue, 23 Dec 2014 15:50:35 GMT
epa04538355 A general view of the scene of a bomb blast at Dukku bus rank in Gombe, Nigeria, 22 December 2014. According to local news reports at least 20 people died and 18 sustained various injuries in the blast. The blast is suspected to be the work of militant Islamic group Boko Haram who have been waging a war of teror in Nigeria for the past five years. EPA/STR©EPA

The scene of the bomb blast at the Dukku bus rank in Gombe where at least 20 people were killed

At least 28 people were killed in two Nigerian cities on Monday in bomb blasts that have been blamed on a Boko Haram wave of violence ahead of elections in February

Two explosions in quick succession at a bus station in Gombe left at least 20 dead and wounded twice as many, said emergency service officials, though it was not immediately clear if they were the work of suicide bombers. Later in the day an explosion at a market in Bauchi state killed seven and set the market alight.

Gombe borders Bauchi as well as Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, the Nigerian states worst affected by the insurgency.

Last week 35 people were killed and as many as 172, including women and children, were abducted in the village of Gumsuri in Borno, the focus of Boko Haram efforts to carve out a strict Islamic state in the remote and poor northeast.

The relentless violence comes amid rising political tension ahead of scheduled elections, in which General Muhamadu Buhari, a former military ruler and petroleum minister, is positioning himself as the strongman needed to restore stability and stamp out corruption.

Gen Buhari, who took power in a coup in 1983 and ruled Nigeria with an iron fist until he was deposed by rival officers in 1985, has tried three times to return to power via the ballot box.

Goodluck Jonathan, the president, remains favourite to win the contest in February. But analysts say violence in the mainly Muslim north, where Gen Buhari has a strong following, the tumble in the naira currency and disaffection with Mr Jonathan’s record on corruption have given his rivals the best chance of unseating the ruling People’s Democratic party since the return of civilian rule in 1999.

Gen Buhari has chosen Professor Yemi Osibanjo, a Christian and former attorney-general of Lagos state, as his running mate in a bid to win votes from the populous Yoruba-speaking southwest.

Setting the tone for what is likely to be an acrimonious campaign, Wale Oladipo, the PDP’s national secretary, described Gen Buhari as a “semi-literate jackboot”.

Both main parties accuse each other of profiting from the insurgency. The national electoral commission said last week that as many as 1.5m voters could be disenfranchised in the worst-affected states, where the opposition is popular, unless laws are changed to enable displaced people to vote outside their constituencies.

Yet the violence reflects particularly badly on Mr Jonathan, who has struggled to contain the insurgency since its outbreak in 2009.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in bombings and massacres this year alone, according the US council for foreign relations. The more than 200 girls snatched by Boko Haram from a school in the village of Chibok in April remain in captivity, further damaging Mr Jonathan's credibility.

In neighbouring Cameroon, the army said it had dismantled a Boko Haram training camp, killed and arrested dozens of militants and rescued 84 child captives.

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