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27Aug/11Off

NIGERIA: COVERAGE ON BOMBING OF UN HOUSE IN ABUJA

The New York Times (United States) reported on 27 August that a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into the headquarters of the United Nations in the Nigerian capital, blasting an enormous hole in the building with a thunderous detonation that left at least 18 dead, witnesses and officials said. As many as 400 people might have been inside during the attack, which happened in Abuja, the first time U.N. offices have been a bombing target in Nigeria. Boko Haram, a shadowy Nigerian Islamist insurgency group with possible links to Al Qaeda's affiliates in the region, claimed responsibility in a telephone call to the B.B.C.'s Hausa-language broadcast service in northern Nigeria. If confirmed, it would signal a leap in the scope of Boko Haram's targets to now include international organizations. U.N. officials said the total number of dead and wounded was likely to rise considerably. Hospitals in Abuja issued a call for blood donors as the police and fire and rescue squads sealed off the area and pulled survivors and bodies from the wreckage of the bomb, which destroyed at least two floors of the seven-story structure. ''We condemn this terrible act, utterly,'' Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, said in a statement delivered at U.N. headquarters in New York. Joy Ogwu, Nigeria's ambassador to the United Nations, called for renewed efforts to fight terrorism in her country, saying, ''My government deplores unequivocally this heinous attack, not only on the civilian population, but especially on the U.N. family and the U.N. as an institution.'' President Barack Obama also denounced the bombing and said ''an attack on Nigerian and international public servants demonstrates the bankruptcy of the ideology that led to this heinous action.'' Twenty-six U.N. agencies, including UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA, maintained offices in the building, which is close to the U.S. Embassy and the Nigerian national defense headquarters. Read: The New York Times

Associated Press reported on 27 August on the bombing of the U.N. building in Abuja. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it "an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others." The buildings, known as U.N. House, had offices for about 400 employees working for 26 U.N. humanitarian and development agencies. Authorities were still trying to account for everyone in the building at the time of the blast. "We condemn this terrible act, utterly," Secretary-General Ban told reporters at U.N. headquarters. "We do not yet have precise casualty figures but they are likely to be considerable. A number of people are dead; many more are wounded." The building, located in the same neighborhood as the U.S. embassy and other diplomatic posts in Abuja, houses offices of a number of U.N. agencies including the U.N. Development Programme, UNICEF and the U.N. Population Fund. The attack was the most deadly on the United Nations since 17 U.N. civilian staff members were killed along with dozens of others in two terrorist car bombings that targeted U.N. and other premises in Algiers on Dec. 11, 2007. It came just days after the U.N. marked the eighth anniversary of the Aug. 19, 2003 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that killed 15 U.N. staff including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and seven others. Read: Associated Press

PANA reported on 27 August that UN operations in Nigeria have been temporarily halted by the bomb attack on the UN building in the capital city of Abuja. The Country Representative of UNFPA, Agathe Lawson, who addressed vividly-shaken members of staff of the international body, told them to go home. 'The more you stay here, the more you become more stressed...This is a difficult situation and I appeal to everyone to go home to reassure his or her family that they are safe,' Dr. Lawson said.  She did not say when the staffers are expected back at their desks. Read: PANA

Vanguard (Nigeria) reported on 27 August that but for the inbuilt fire extinguisher mechanism that was put in place at the UN House in Abuja, the entire five-storey  building would have gone up in flames and caved in following the impact of the bomb blast carried out by a suicide bomber in an explosive -laden Honda car on 26 August. The article noted that UNFPA Representative Agathe Lawson charged the surviving staff at the United Nations building not to be despaired by the incidents but to the summon courage to work for the world body. She further instructed the heads of the different UN agencies to wait behind for further information and collation of information regarding the staff under them.

The Nation (Nigeria) reported on 27 August that there were strong indications that about 20 people were killed in a suicide bomb explosion at the UN Building in Abuja on 26 August. Also, as at press time, 68 others were injured, although the blast affected 275 people The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), however, officially confirmed five dead and 20 injured as at 4pm. NEMA had not updated its figures as at press time. But the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who admitted that the casualty figures could be “considerable,” has sent the Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, to Nigeria. Many staff of the UN were still trapped in the devastated building. A UNFPA staffer, Kori Habib, who escaped by a whisker, said: “I really thank God for His mercy on us and other staff that survived. I had a close shave. “I and my colleagues had a meeting on the First Floor. But when we got to the Meeting Room, we discovered that one of our staff was not around to be part of the session. “We decided to return to our office on the Fourth Floor since the key staff was not around. Barely a minute into our office and as we were settling down, we heard a deafening explosion, and the roof of the building caved in on us “Some of us managed to escape through the back of the building. Others were not too lucky.” As at press time, mass screening of the UN Building by anti-bomb experts had started following indications that more than 100 staff were still trapped. Also, it was unclear what has become of the fate of some babies in the crèche inside the building. A staff of UN Women added: “I know we have a crèche in the building but I cannot tell you the actual number of babies or children on the roll there.”  UNFPA Representative in in Nigeria, Dr. Agathe Lawson, who said it was difficult to ascertain the number of casualties, claimed that the strike was a “painful and difficult experience.” Read: The Nation

The Guardian (UK) reported on 26 August that Nigeria's capital was on high alert after an apparent suicide attack on the United Nations headquarters in Abuja stoked fears that Islamist militants were setting their sights on high-profile targets in Africa's most populous country.  "The president believes that the attack is a most despicable assault on the United Nations' objectives of global peace and security, and the sanctity of human life to which Nigeria wholly subscribes," the president's office said in a statement. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who asked his deputy, Asha-Rose Migiro, to go to Nigeria immediately, said: "This was an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others. We condemn this terrible act, utterly." The Islamist group Boko Haram told the BBC in a phone call that it had carried out the attack. If the claim turns out to be genuine, the attack would confirm American fears that al-Qaida-affiliated groups are targeting the important west African state. Witnesses said a car rammed through two separate gates at the UN compound as guards tried to stop it. The suicide bomber drove up to the main reception area before blowing himself up. "I saw scattered bodies," Michael Ofilaje, a Unicef worker at the building, told the Associated Press. "Many people are dead." He said it felt like "the blast came from the basement and shook the building." About 400 UN employees work in the building, grouping several UN agencies, including UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA. The building is located in the same area as foreign embassies, including the British embassy, which is currently under construction. Read: The Guardian

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