ABUJA, Nigeria — The toll from a massive explosion at a busy bus station in Nigeria’s capital rose to 75 dead Tuesday and is expected to grow.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the rush-hour blast, though President Goodluck Jonathan is blaming the attack on Islamic extremists.
Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu visited victims in hospitals Tuesday and put their number at 141. He said a previous figure of 164 wounded had counted some patients twice.
The death toll will increase, as the victims who were blown apart are counted, Chukwu said. “When you have piece of flesh here and there, limbs here and there, they need to be properly sorted out,” he said. “By the time the pathologists are through, obviously, we will then have to revise the mortality data.”
The explosion just miles from Nigeria’s seat of government in the center of the country is increasing doubts about the military’s ability to contain a 5-year-old Islamic uprising that has killed more than 1,500 people this year.
The attack, hundreds of miles from the insurgents’ traditional strongholds in the northeast, comes after Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram terrorist network, threatened to attack the capital and to take the conflict across the border to Cameroon if that country continues to assist Nigeria in its fight.
The government and the military recently have claimed to have the extremists on the run and contained in the far northeast along the borders with Cameroon and Chad, but attacks by the extremists have increased in frequency and mortality. Last month the Islamic militants launched a daring raid and freed hundreds of detainees from the military’s main barracks in the northeast, the Giwa Barracks in the city of Maiduguri. The soldiers responded by gunning down the released prisoners. At least 425 people were killed, mainly detainees, according to hospital staff.
Responding to Monday’s blast, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said Nigeria needs outside help.
“The bombings ... automatically cast doubts on the (government) claims of containing the crisis to the fringes of the country”, he said. He called for stepped-up intelligence to pre-empt attacks and suggested, “It is time for Nigeria to accept foreign assistance with fighting terrorism in the country.” He did not clarify what sort of assistance.