Nigerian city hit by bomb blasts after rebel warning

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nigerian officials have said that at least two bombings struck a government office building in the African nation on Monday, after a rebel group warned that it had placed explosives around its perimeter.

The incident occurred in the city of Warri in the Southern Delta province. No government officials were killed or injured in the blasts, spokesman Linus Chima told media. However, it was not immediately clear whether there were any civilian casualties.

"Everybody is safe. There was an explosion but the security people are taking care of it," the public relations aide to provincial Governor Felix Ofou told the Financial Times by telephone.

Political map of Nigeria.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) rebel group claimed responsibility for the explosions. In a statement, the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Oma Djebah, said the bombs were placed in vehicles around 200 metres from the building.

Officials were meeting in the offices, contemplating plans regarding amnesty given to Nigerian rebels who agreed to stop fighting. The meeting "has been put off," Djebah noted, adding that officials were evacuated. He did not specify when the gathering would be resumed.

The Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and the minister for the Niger Delta were among those at the meeting. "It was a plan to scuttle the peace talks," Chima said of the blasts.

"The people of the Niger Delta will not be intimidated or deterred by the act of a few opposed to a peaceful and non-violent approach to resolving the historic grievances of the region. We assure all that we will not be deterred in our determination to fast-track our development for our people," Chima continued.

The MEND group said in an e-mail statement that it had placed three bombs, with two to be blown up remotely at 11:30 local time. Officials did not immediately comment on a third bomb. The rebel group has said it wants fairer distribution of Nigeria's oil.

MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo remarked in the email message that "[i]n the coming days, we will carry out a number of attacks against installations and oil companies across the Niger Delta, and [the attacks] will spread out to companies such as Total which have been spared in the past. We hope the actions which will follow will persuade Mr. Uduaghan that we exist outside of cyberspace."

The e-mail further read that "[t]he deceit of endless dialogue and conferences will no longer be tolerated. The lands of the people of the Niger delta [were] stolen by the oil companies and northern Nigeria with the stroke of a pen."