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article imageNigeria hit by new car bomb attack

By Ben Simon (AFP)     May 20, 2014 in World

Twin car bombings on Tuesday killed at least 46 in central Nigeria in the latest in a series of deadly blasts that will stoke fears about security despite international help in the fight against Boko Haram Islamists.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan swiftly condemned the attack in the central city of Jos, calling it a "tragic assault on human freedom" and condemning the perpetrators as "cruel and evil".

"President Jonathan assures all Nigerians that (the) government remains fully committed to winning the war against terror and... will not be cowed by the atrocities of enemies of human progress and civilisation," his office said.

Forty-five people were also injured in the attack where improvised explosive devices were hidden in a truck and a minibus, according to the military.

Most of the victims were women, Pam Ayuba, spokesman for Plateau state governor Jonah Jang, said, while the emergency services said their workers were caught up in the second blast as they attended victims from the first.

V.Breschi/, AFP

Plateau, of which Jos is the capital, falls in Nigeria's so-called Middle Belt, where the mainly Christian south meets the Muslim-majority north.

The state and its religiously divided capital have seen deadly sectarian clashes in the past as well as attacks from Boko Haram extremists.

The deadly strike and a suicide car bomb attack that killed four in the northern city of Kano on Sunday will raise questions about the government's grip on the country's security.

The Kano bombing in a predominantly Christian neighbourhood of the ancient city and commercial hub has previously been hit by the Islamist militants, although a political motive has not been ruled out.

There was no immediate indication of who was responsible for the latest attacks and the police in Kano said they had arrested two men, but the Boko Haram insurgency is Nigeria's most pressing security issue.

The militants claimed responsibility for an April 14 car bomb attack on a bus station in a suburb of the capital Abuja which killed 75.

They are also suspected of carrying out a copy-cat bombing in the same location on May 1 which left 19 dead.

Nigeria has asked the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Boko Haram and list it as a terrorist group, diplomats said Tuesday.

A woman holds a sign to call for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram mi...
A woman holds a sign to call for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants on May 19, 2014 in Abidjan
Sia Kambou, AFP/File

They said Nigeria lodged the request with a Security Council committee that deals with sanctions against Al-Qaeda-linked groups.

The decision to add the sect to the black list will go into effect on Thursday if no objections are raised by any of the council's 15 members.

The sanctions imposed by the committee typically involve freezing of assets, an arms embargo and travel bans.

- Regional co-operation -

International attention has been focused on Nigeria since Boko Haram militants kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in Borno state on April 14.

Northern Nigeria has been hit by a growing wave of attacks since the start of the insurgency in 2009 and sporadic attacks in Cameroon, Chad and Niger have prompted fears of a regional threat.

Regional leaders agreed at a summit in Paris on Saturday to improve their co-operation, including by better surveillance and intelligence sharing, to end the violence.

Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan (C) is escorted by French president Francois Hollande as ...
Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan (C) is escorted by French president Francois Hollande as he leaves following a summit on Boko Haram on May 17, 2014 in Paris
Alain Jocard, AFP/File

Jonathan said in his statement on Tuesday that the summit was a success and pledged to implement its resolutions as well as existing plans to increase security.

He said "every necessary measure" should be taken to find the still 223 missing schoolgirls, and that neighbouring countries would contribute a battalion of troops each to patrol the border region and there would be a crackdown on arms trafficking.

In Nigeria, where there have been widespread concerns about the safety of schoolchildren, the police said they were beefing up security at boarding schools to prevent a repeat kidnapping.

Senior officials said they expected the results to help determine security strategies to reduce the vulnerability of schools, which have previously been seen as soft targets for the extremists.

Earlier this month, the United Nations' special envoy for global education, British former prime minister Gordon Brown, announced a "Safe Schools Initiative" to improve security at an initial 500 schools in the north.

- State of emergency extended -

A screengrab taken on May 12  2014  from a video released by Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko ...
A screengrab taken on May 12, 2014, from a video released by Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram obtained by AFP shows girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying, being filmed by an unidentified man (R) in an undisclosed rural location
, Boko Haram/AFP/File

The blasts in Jos happened after senators in the upper chamber of Nigeria's parliament gave their unanimous approval for a six-month extension to a state of emergency in three northeast states.

The lower House of Representatives had overwhelmingly backed the plan in a vote last week.

Jonathan had requested a continuation of special powers in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa because of what he said was the "daunting" security situation and mounting civilian casualties.

The approval -- the second since special powers were first introduced on May 14 last year -- came as no surprise, with more than 2,000 people killed this year alone.

In approving their request, the senators said they "welcome and endorse the support of the international community" in the search, which includes the United States, Britain, France and Israel.

The senators called on Jonathan, who has been criticised for his lacklustre response to the mass kidnapping, to expand co-operation to bring an end to the violence.

They also called for a "full military operation" to be conducted to crush the insurgents as well as non-military means to tackle the roots of the rebellion in the impoverished north.

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