DAMATURU, Nigeria (AP) Survivors of a bomb blast at an illegal World Cup viewing site in northeast Nigeria that killed at least 14 people said Wednesday the force of the explosion blew off limbs and knocked people senseless.
Unrelated to the attack, police said security forces arrested nearly 500 people, including a ”terror kingpin” in the southeast of the country.
At least 26 people were wounded in Tuesday night’s blast as soccer fans were viewing the Brazil-Mexico match in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, police said.
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”The bomb just threw me and I didn’t even know where I was,” survivor Babagana Mohammed said. He recovered consciousness in the hospital.
Another wounded victim, Musa Mohammed, said some people lost limbs in the blast. He said he had stopped by to buy airtime for his cellphone when a normal evening turned nighmarish.
”I stopped at the viewing center to buy a recharge card and suddenly the blast went off. It was just like a flash of light and many people were killed. Some were amputated … But thank God mine was a lesser injury.”
Witnesses said a suicide bomber drove a tricycle taxi packed with explosives into the area. But Police Assistant Superintendent Nathan Cheghan said the explosion came from a car parked and abandoned on the road in front.
Cheghan said such viewing sites were banned in Yobe state two months ago because they have become a target of Boko Haram, an armed Islamic group that wants to turn Nigerian into an Islamic state.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but he blamed Boko Haram.
The government spokesman on the insurgency, Mike Omeri, said Wednesday that Boko Haram plans to attack crowded areas in Abuja, the capital in the center of the country, with petrol tankers loaded with improvised explosive devices. Omeri spoke at a daily news briefing. Two separate car bombs in April killed about 100 people in Abuja.
Security experts had warned that Islamic militants might attack crowds watching the World Cup in public places in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, as they did in 2010 in Uganda. The explosions in Kampala, Uganda, at two sites where people watched the 2010 World Cup final on TV killed 74 people. Al-Shabab, a Somali insurgent group, set off those bombs.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense said it has detained ”a terror kingpin in the list of wanted terrorists.”
A statement Tuesday night said he was found among 486 suspects arrested while travelling at night in a suspicious convoy of 33 buses in southeast Enugu state.
Local news reports have said the men and a handful of women detained said they were travelling from the north to Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil capital in the south, to look for work.
Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau has threatened to attack targets in the Niger Delta which produces much of the oil that makes Nigeria Africa’s largest petroleum producer.
Until this year, Boko Haram attacks were almost exclusively limited to northern Nigeria and concentrated in the northeast. This year, attacks blamed on the extremists have spread to at least four central states and have increased in frequency and deadliness. More than 2,000 people have been killed this year, compared to some 3,600 in the four previous years.
Faul reported from Lagos, Nigeria. Associated Press writer Lekan Oyekanmi in Abuja, Nigeria, contributed to this report.