Nigeria UN office attack suspects arrested before blast
Days before a car bombing at a UN headquarters in Nigeria that killed 23 people, the country’s secret police arrested two men suspected of organizing the attack, authorities said yesterday, raising questions about why it was not averted.
The State Security Service’s statement to journalists said it also sought a third suspect they said had “Al Qaeda links’’ and recently returned from Somalia. It offered new evidence that the radical Muslim sect known locally as Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on the UN, has ties to Al Qaeda-affiliated terror elsewhere in Africa.
The agency said it received word Aug. 18 about a possible car bomb attack in Abuja. On Aug. 21, the secret police arrested Babagana Ismail Kwaljima and Babagan Mali, two men they said had ties to Boko Haram and were planning the attack.
On Friday, a suicide bomber rammed through gates to reach the UN building’s glass reception hall. There, the bomber detonated explosives powerful enough to bring down parts of the concrete structure and blow out glass windows from other buildings in the quiet Abuja neighborhood filled with diplomatic posts.
The agency did not say whether it shared intelligence with diplomats in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. The security chief for the United Nations previously said it received no specific warning.
The secret police said the two men are at a military base. “The suspects have made valuable statements,’’ the agency said.
Marilyn Ogar, a spokeswoman for the secret police, declined to comment on why the agency could not stop the bombing or whether it shared information with foreign diplomats.
The State Security Service, responsible for domestic intelligence, has operatives who focus on political opposition or secessionists. The agency also routinely detains journalists and government critics.AP