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Scores feared dead in ThisDay bombings in Abuja, kaduna

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By Josephine Ella, Muhammad Nasir, Muhammad Sada, Sunday Etuka, Abuja & Agaju Madugba, Kaduna

Several persons were feared dead yesterday, in the suicide bomb attack at the Abuja office of ThisDay newspaper, located near the ever busy Jabi Motor Park while scores of others were badly injured.
This attack, being the first on a media house since the series of coordinated onslaught by the Boko Haram sect across states in northern Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), came barely three months after, an alleged threat contained in a text message which was forwarded to the media company by the sect.
The explosion, which occurred at about 11am, caused pandemonium in many parts of Abuja, especially around Jabi, Utako and Wuse districts as commuters, traders and other residents scampered for safety.
Economic activities were also grounded at the Jabi Motor Park, plazas, petrol stations and banks situated in the area, some of which were affected by the impact of the blast.
Our reporters, who were at the scene of the blast, observed that a combined rescue team, comprising of officials of the Federal Fire Service, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Red Cross, army, police, the State Security Service (SSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) among others arrived at the scene 30 minutes after the explosion and cordoned off the area, while rescue operations went on.
According to witnesses,  victims of the explosion were mostly petty traders and artisans carrying out their trades near the area.
The bomber, who was said to have drove in an Isuzu SUV jeep managed to beat the security at the back gate of the bureau and rammed the vehicle into the building.
Another eyewitness, who declined identification citing security reasons, told our reporters that he had parked his car in front of the building before the blast.
“Immediately the man was allowed in, I heard a sound like a ticking watch then the next thing was explosion. You can see that my car was damaged. I was thrown to the ground by the bomb but thank God I am alive to tell the story.
“See how human bodies were flying in the air even my fariend who equally parked his car and was sleeping inside was thrown to the ground by the impact of the explosion. It was terrible,” he said.
Another eyewitness, who gave her name as Patience Simon, said she was lifted up and landed on the ground at the blast and sustained a minor injury on her hand.
Simon who spoke in tears said her brother who is a guard in one of the affected plazas close to the ThisDay building was nowhere to be found.A Circulation Assistant at the ThisDay office, who survived the blast, Samson Oliver, told journalists that he was asleep when the blast occurred. “I was just sleeping at about 11am so I was awakened by a deafening sound accompanied by a thick dark smoke. Everywhere was dark. I was confused initially, it was later that I realised that it was a bomb explosion”, Oliver told journalists.
The Chairman, ThisDay Editorial Board, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, speaking on the incident, said only two staff of the company died while five others sustained injuries.
While giving an account of the incident, Adeniyi said: “The front gate of the building was locked; the gate at the back was also locked and the security men were there. The suicide bomber came in a jeep. They opened for him but we can’t find out why they opened the gate for them because the security men are dead. The bomber now drove the vehicle down and it exploded”.
He denied knowledge of the company receiving any threat from the sect, saying “I don’t know about any threat to this newspaper but, we all know that there have been general security threats to the media. But the security men will get to the root of the matter”.
The relevant government officials at the scene of the blast including the Comptroller-General of the Federal Fire Service, Engineer Olusegun Okebiorun, Commissioner of Police, FCT Police Command, Mr. Adeyemi Shinaba could not confirm the death toll and casualty figure to journalists.
The National President, Nigeria Union of journalists (NUJ), Garba Mohammed who also visited the blast scene to sympathise with the victims, said the occurrence has further confirmed that journalists and media houses are not safe.
Also, an  un identified man yesterday rammed an explosives-laden ash coloured Honda Academy car with Kaduna registration number, AL 306 MKA, into the SOJ Plaza on Kontangora road, by the popular Ahmadu Bello Way, killing three persons, according to eyewitness accounts.
Apart from several other office accommodations, ThisDay, The Sun and The Moment also have their offices located within the building complex.
Kaduna state Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Jinjiri, who described the devastation from the blast as moderate, confirmed the death of only one person, noting that several others were injured.
Eyewitnesses said the incident occurred at about 11.20 am when a man drove the car “dangerously” into the premises of the building, disembarked and started chanting “lailahailala” and telling everyone around that a bomb will soon explode from his car. 
But contrary to widespread rumours that the suspect arrested in connection with the attack on the media houses in Kaduna yesterday is a man of South-East extraction, spokesperson of the SSS, Marilyn Ogar declared one Umar Umar Mustapha of Maiduguri, Borno state as the key suspect.
The North-West Bureau Chief of the Sun, Ismail Omipidan, who was on his way to the office at the time also narrated his ordeal saying that, “I was about travelling but decided to pick something from the office before proceeding on my journey. “When I reached the gate of my office, I saw a man being beaten by an angry mob and when I inquired, I was told that the man drove with a car laden with explosives inside our office.
Reacting in a press statement signed by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Reuben Buhari, Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa commiserated with the families of those who lost their lives in the incident.
According to the statement, “the governor is also saddened by the bombing of the Abuja office of THISDAY newspaper. He is worried and saddened that media houses who are partners in progress in the development of any society have become targets of attack.

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