Suicide bomber kills at least 50 in Nigeria mosque

Boko Haram militants exhibit their weapons in this screengrab taken on July 13, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian extremist group. (AFP file photo)
Updated 22 November 2017
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Suicide bomber kills at least 50 in Nigeria mosque

KANO, Nigeria: At least 50 people were killed on Tuesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in northeast Nigeria, police said, in an attack blamed on Boko Haram militants.
The blast happened during early morning prayers at the Madina mosque in the Unguwar Shuwa area of Mubi, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) by road from the Adamawa state capital Yola.
It was the biggest attack in Adamawa since December 2016, when two female suicide bombers killed 45 people at a crowded market in the town of Madagali.
Security analysts said Tuesday’s bombing again underlined the threat posed by Boko Haram, despite an overall decline in deaths from attacks by the group last year.
Adamawa state police spokesman Othman Abubakar told AFP that at least 50 were killed in the Mubi attack.
“It was a (suicide) bomber who mingled with worshippers. He entered the mosque along with other worshippers for the morning prayers.
“It was when the prayers were on that he set off his explosives.”
Asked who was responsible, Abubakar said: “We all know the trend. We don’t suspect anyone specifically but we know those behind such kind of attacks.”
The attack bore all the hallmarks of Boko Haram, the militants whose insurgency has left at least 20,000 people dead and more than 2.6 million others homeless since 2009.
Haruna Furo, head of the Adamawa state emergency management agency, and Musa Hamad Bello, chairman of the Mubi north local government area, both confirmed the attack.
They gave lower death tolls but both said the number killed was likely to rise.


Another emergency services official described the blast as “devastating” and said there were “high casualties.”
Abubakar Sule, who lives near the mosque, said he was present during the rescue operation and that 40 people died on the spot while several others were taken to hospital with severe and life-threatening injuries.
“The roof was blown off. People near the mosque said the prayer was mid-way when the bomber, who was obviously in the congregation, detonated his explosives.
“This is obviously the work of Boko Haram.”
Yan St-Pierre, a counter-terrorism specialist at the Modern Security Consulting Group in Berlin, said the bombing fitted a pattern of previous attacks.
“It fits with the increasing lethality and potency of suicide attacks of the organization’s current ‘hot streak’, which started approximately four weeks ago,” he said.
The latest Global Terrorism Index, published last week, said that deaths attributed to Boko Haram in 2016 fell by 80 percent.
But St-Pierre said despite this “Boko Haram remains an extremely potent and dangerous organization” which was far from being “on the back foot,” as the military has claimed.
In October 2012, at least 40 people were killed in an attack on student housing in Mubi that was widely blamed on Boko Haram.
In June 2014, at least 40 football supporters, including women and children, died in a bomb attack after a match in the Kabang area of the town.
Boko Haram briefly overran Mubi in late 2014 as its fighters rampaged across northeastern Nigeria, seizing towns and villages in its quest to establish a hard-line Islamic state.
The town’s name was changed temporarily to Madinatul Islam, or “City of Islam” in Arabic, during the Boko Haram occupation.
But it has been peaceful since the military and the civilian militia ousted them from the town, which is a commercial hub and home to the Adamawa State University.
Yet in recent months, Boko Haram activity has been concentrated around Madagali, in the far north of Adamawa near the border with neighboring Borno state.
There have been repeated raids and suicide bombings, blamed on Boko Haram remnants pushed out of their camps in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno.
Boko Haram fighters are also said to be hiding in the Mandara mountains, which forms the border of Adamawa and Nigeria with neighboring Cameroon, where there has also been more attacks.
Ryan Cummings, from security analysts Signal Risk, said the attack suggests Boko Haram “has an active operational presence in Adamawa” and retained the capacity to hit hard.
“It appears that despite open calls for Boko Haram to desist in such acts of mass violence against Muslim civilian interests, that these have not been heeded,” he added.


Fury clouds funeral plans for Italy bridge victims

Updated 47 min 52 sec ago
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Fury clouds funeral plans for Italy bridge victims

  • The collapse of the Morandi bridge, a decades-old viaduct that crumbled in a storm on Tuesday killing at least 38 people, has stunned and angered the country
  • According to La Stampa newspaper, the families of 17 victims have refused to take part in the state funeral, while a further seven have yet to decide whether they will attend

GENOA: Grieving relatives wept over the coffins of dozens of victims of Genoa’s bridge disaster Friday amid growing fury over a planned state funeral, while rescuers pressed on with their tireless search for those missing in the rubble.
The collapse of the Morandi bridge, a decades-old viaduct that crumbled in a storm on Tuesday killing at least 38 people, has stunned and angered the country, with Italian media reporting that some outraged families would shun Saturday’s official ceremonies.
Italy’s government has blamed the operator of the viaduct for the tragedy and threatened to strip the firm of its contracts, while the country’s creaking infrastructure has come under fresh scrutiny.
Authorities plan a state funeral service on Saturday at a hall in Genoa, coinciding with a day of mourning.
Relatives who gathered at the hall on Friday embraced and prayed over lines of coffins, many adorned with flowers and photographs of the dead.
But according to La Stampa newspaper, the families of 17 victims have refused to take part, while a further seven have yet to decide whether they will attend.
“It is the state who has provoked this; let them not show their faces, the parade of politicians is shameful,” the press cited the mother of one of four young Italians from Naples who died.
The father of another of the dead from Naples took to social media to vent his anger.
“My son will not become a number in the catalogue of deaths caused by Italian failures,” said his grieving father, Roberto.
“We do not want a farce of a funeral but a ceremony at home.”
Despite fading hopes of finding survivors, rescue workers said they had not given up as they resumed the dangerous operation to search through the unstable mountains of debris.
“Is there anyone there? Is there anyone there?” one firefighter shouted into a cavity dug out of the piles of concrete and twisted metal, in a video published by the emergency services.
Between 10 and 20 people are still missing, according to Genoa’s chief prosecutor.
Ten people remain in hospital, six of them in a serious condition.
Hundreds of rescuers are using cranes and bulldozers to cut up and remove the biggest slabs of the fallen bridge, which slammed down onto railway tracks along with dozens of vehicles.
“We are trying to find pockets in the rubble where people could be — alive or not,” fire official Emanuele Gissi told AFP.
Officials say about 1,000 people in all are working on the disaster site, 350 of them firefighters.
The populist government has accused infrastructure giant Autostrade per L’Italia of failing to invest in sufficient maintenance and said it would seek to revoke its lucrative contracts.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanded that the company offer up to 500 million euros ($570 million) to help families and local government deal with the aftermath of the disaster.
The dead also include children, one as young as eight, and three Chileans and four French nationals.
The French nationals, all in their 20s, had traveled to Italy for a music festival, and other victims included a family setting off on holiday and a couple returning from their California honeymoon.
More than 600 people were evacuated from around a dozen apartments beneath the remaining shard of bridge.
On Thursday evening the first residents of some buildings in the affected area were allowed to return home, though others are too badly damaged to save.
The Morandi viaduct dates from the 1960s and has been riddled with structural problems for decades, leading to expensive maintenance and severe criticism from engineering experts.
Its collapse prompted fears over aging infrastructure across the world.
Italy has announced a year-long state of emergency in the region.
Autostrade, which operates and maintains nearly half of Italy’s motorways, estimates it will take five months to rebuild the bridge.
It denies scrimping on motorway maintenance, saying it has invested over one billion euros a year in “safety, maintenance and strengthening of the network” since 2012.
Atlantia, the holding company of Autostrade which is 30 percent owned by iconic fashion brand Benetton, has warned that the government would have to refund the value of the contract, which runs until at least 2038.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Autostrade “had the duty and obligation to assure the maintenance of this viaduct and the security of all those who traveled on it.”
The disaster is the latest in a string of bridge collapses in Italy, where infrastructure generally is showing the effects of a faltering economy.
Senior government figures have also lashed out at austerity measures imposed by the European Union, saying they restrict investment.
But the European Commission said it had given Rome billions of euros to fix infrastructure.