Car bombs kill 8, mar Nigeria 50th ceremony

The Associated Press
Friday, October 1, 2010; 4:46 PM

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Two car bombs exploded Friday as Nigeria celebrated its 50th independence anniversary, killing at least eight people in an unprecedented attack on the nation's capital by militants from the oil-rich southern delta region.

The attacks claimed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta came as President Goodluck Jonathan and other dignitaries sat only a 10-minute walk away.

The bombings raise new questions about political stability and security in Africa's most populous nation as it approaches a critical presidential election and remains one of the world's top crude oil suppliers.

The militant group issued a warning to journalists about an hour before the attacks, telling people to stay away from festivities at Eagle Square in the nation's capital of Abuja. It blamed Nigeria's government for doing nothing to end the unceasing poverty in the delta as the nation receives billions of dollars from oil revenue.

"There is nothing worth celebrating after 50 years of failure," the group's statement read. "For 50 years, the people of the Niger Delta have had their land and resources stolen from them."

The group said the explosive devices had been planted by "operatives working inside the government security services."

Police Minister Adamu Waziri said that eight people had been killed and 18 others wounded in the attacks.

The car bombings seemed designed to lure first-responders and then kill them with a second blast. Five minutes after the first vehicle exploded, the second went off, a police officer told an Associated Press reporter at the scene. At least one of the dead was a policeman, the officer said. The officer spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

A Nigerian Red Cross spokesman said his group transported 38 wounded people to local hospitals, where doctors desperately needed blood for transfusions.

Inside Eagle Square, an AP reporter heard a small explosion before members of the military paraded in front of the gathered dignitaries. A security agent was seen lying on the ground afterward, though the militant group later denied placing any explosives inside the venue.

The anniversary ceremony continued without interruption. Afterward, Jonathan's office issued a statement condemning the "wicked and dastardly" attack.

"The president wants these families to know that their loved ones have not died in vain," the statement read. "Rather they have paid the supreme price for our unity; and in their death, they have watered the tree of our freedom."

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