(Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)
Seventy-one people were killed and 124 were injured in a bus bombing attack in Abuja, Nigeria, on Monday. A Roman Catholic priest stated that Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram is likely the culprit.
"The authorities have not yet confirmed that this was an attack carried out by Boko Haram, but suspicion is likely to fall on armed group Boko Haram," Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku, director of social Communications of the Archdiocese of Abuja, told Fides News Agency.
"The bus depot where the explosion took place is normally used by a large number of commuters to get to work in the center of the capital," he noted. "The victims are therefore normal people, who belong to the working class, who were on their way to work."
Police spokesman Frank Mba said that the attack at the bus station at Nigeria's capital destroyed 16 luxury coaches and 24 minibuses, The Associated Press reported. While the attackers were not immediately identified, Boko Haram has reportedly been threatening to attack Abuja.
The Islamic terrorist group has been waging war on Christians and the Nigerian government, attempting to drive out believers and place the religiously-divided country under Islamic rule. It has killed thousands of people in the past few years in attacks on government buildings, schools and churches.
Reuters noted that this was the deadliest attack ever recorded on Abuja. The bus station is said to have served Nyanya, described as a "poor, ethnically and religiously mixed satellite town where many residents work in the city."
One survivor said that people were running around in panic following the blast.
"I was waiting to get on a bus when I heard a deafening explosion, then saw smoke," said Mimi Daniels, who sustained minor injuries to her arm.
Police also reportedly struggled containing crowds of onlookers as fire crews hosed down the buses with the charred bodies of the victims still inside.
Kole Shettima, director of the Abuja office of U.S. charitable institution, the MacArthur Foundation, said the attack is not a "big surprise."
"The situation has been escalating," Shettima said.
"It's a statement that they are still around and they can attack Abuja when they want, and instill fear," the director added, referring to Boko Haram.
Fr. Alumuku noted that on Sunday, Boko Haram killed another 60 people in several villages across north-east Nigeria.
"The situation is very difficult. The army is chasing the Boko Haram men but these in response commit reprisals against civilians," said Fr. Patrick .
In March, The Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans called on the government to do more to help the thousands of Nigerians fleeing the country due to Boko Haram's attacks. It also called on the government to provide better welfare packages for Nigerian soldiers who are said to be in low morale in the fight against the Islamic terrorists.
"Boko Haram is making nonsense of the claim of the Nigerian government to be in charge of the situation, and we want the federal government to redouble its security effort to contain the situation again," said CANAN Executive Director Pastor Laolu Akande.