Two explosions today rocked Nigeria’s north central city of Kaduna, the state capital, killing at least 82 people.
The first blast was detonated by a suicide bomber targeting moderate Muslim cleric Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi. The sheikh’s convoy was leaving Kaduna’s Murtala Muhammed square, where he had delivered prayers to thousands. According to reports, the sheikh was seated in an open-roofed vehicle as the bomber lunged at him and was stopped by the sheikh’s private security. Describing the attack, the local police commissioner said the bomber “detonated the bomb along with the person that tried to block him.” Bauchi was not hurt, but 32 others have been confirmed dead at the scene.
This was not the first time Sheikh Bauchi had been targeted. On the night of July 1, a minor explosion went off near his residence. Witnesses reportedly stated that the blast targeted his guards.
Earlier this month, the sheikh hosted Christian leaders to break the Ramadan fast with him as part of his efforts to support interfaith coexistence. Speaking at the event, Sheikh Bauchi called Boko Haram’s activities “unislamic.”
Not long after the first bombing today, a second explosion occurred, at Kaduna’s Kawo market area, killing some 50 people.
The Kawo bombing targeted General Muhammadu Buhari, former military ruler of Nigeria in the early 1980s. In the attack, gunmen reportedly “rammed a vehicle into his convoy, firing shots at it.” Buhari is also the main opposition party leader and was the primary contender against President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria’s 2011 elections. With elections scheduled for 2015, there may have also been a political dimension to this attack as no one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombings, which appear to have been coordinated.
The incidents bear the signature of Boko Haram, however, and it is not the first time the group has targeted Muslim leaders in Nigeria. At the end of May, suspected Boko Haram fighters shot and killed the Emir of Gwoza while he was traveling in a convoy to a funeral. Two other emirs survived the ambush.
In January 2013, Emir Al Haji Ado Bayero of Kano, viewed as the second-most important Muslim leader in Nigeria behind the Sultan of Sokoto, was targeted in a Boko Haram assassination attempt. He was protected by his bodyguards and driver, who were killed, as gunmen surrounded his convoy.