Nigeria

President blames 'terrorists' for independence day bombs

Reuters

Nigerian President Goodluck Johnathan on Saturday blamed unidentified terrorists for two bomb attacks during independence day celebrations in Abuja, amid reports that British intelligence agencies warned the government of a potential threat in advance. At least 12 people are now to have died in the attacks, after another two people died of their injuries on Saturday.

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President Johnathan denies that regional rebel group the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), which has claimed responsibility for the attacks, was behind the plot.

"This is a camouflage," Johnathan said after visiting victims of the blasts at an Abuja hospital. "It has nothing to do with Mend... These are terrorists."

He did not offer any more details about who the government suspects of carrying out the attacks.

Mend issued a warning moments before the explosions and afterwards claimed responsibility for the blasts, accusing officials of acting "irresponsibly by ignoring our forewarning".

But the president, who is from the Niger Delta, says that the attacks had "nothing to do with" the region, which is at the heart of Nigeria's oil industry.

The Nigerian government was warned of a potential plot even before Mend's statement, according to national newspaper This Day.

The paper reports that British intelligence agents informed Nigerian authorities about a heightened security risk during the 1 October celebrations.

Several British dignitaries, including former prime minister Gordon Brown and royal representative the Duke of Gloucester, were due to attend the independence day parade but pulled out in advance, apparently for security reasons.

A police spokesperson said that a manhunt had been mounted across Abuja to search for the suspects, and that investigators remained "very optimistic".

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