KANO – (AFP) – Nigerian police said they killed a “would-be suicide bomber” seeking to drive an explosives-laden car into state police headquarters in the violence-torn city of Maiduguri on Monday.
“Our men succeeded in killing a would-be suicide bomber who attempted to force his way into the police headquarters while screening for police recruits was going on,” said state police commissioner Simeon Midenda.
He said bombs made up of seven gas cylinders and a number of other containers were found in the boot of the man’s car. Some 1,500 recruits were on the grounds at the time for screening, he said.
“Our initial suspicion is the attacker is from the Boko Haram sect,” said Midenda, referring to the Islamist sect blamed for scores of shootings and bomb blasts in Nigeria’s northeast.
The incident comes the day before a committee appointed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to look into violence in the northeast is to submit its report to the government.
The committee was expected to recommend whether negotiations should be held with Boko Haram.
It was the first known attack by a suicide bomber in Nigeria.
On June 16, a powerful bomb ripped through a car park at national police headquarters in Abuja, killing at least two people.
Authorities first attributed that attack to a suicide bomber before later retracting the claim, saying they could not be sure.
Bomb blasts blamed on Boko Haram have mainly resulted from improvised devices left on roadsides, near police and military patrols or at open-air pubs. Most of the attacks have occurred in Maiduguri.
There has been intense speculation over whether the sect has formed links with Islamist groups outside of Nigeria, particularly since attacks have seemed to become more sophisticated in recent months.
A video emerged earlier this month showing a British man and an Italian kidnapped in May in northern Nigeria in which they say their abductors are from Al-Qaeda, but the assertion has been impossible to verify.
Western diplomats say the sect appears to have various factions, and while there have been indications of links to outside groups such as Al-Qaeda’s north Africa branch, clear proof has not been established.
At the same time, many have questioned whether certain attacks blamed on the Islamists have been linked to politics in Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer.
The sect launched an uprising in 2009 which was put down by a brutal military assault that left hundreds dead and its mosque and headquarters in Maiduguri in ruins.
It seemed to re-emerge last year with a series of shootings of police officers and soldiers, as well as community and religious leaders, before moving on to bomb blasts in recent months.
Hundreds of troops have been deployed to Maiduguri to deal with the Islamists, but troops have in turn been accused of abuses, including shooting civilians and burning their homes after accusing them of collaborating with the sect.
Thousands of residents have fled the city for fear of further violence.