A powerful explosion that rocked a popular bus stop on Junction Road, Kaduna, on Sunday, left about 36 people dead. Most of the victims were okada riders and petty traders doing business near the Ahmadu Bello Stadium roundabout.
Although the police were yet to come out with an official figure of the casualties, spokesman for the Kaduna State Emergency Agency (SEMA), Abubakar Aza told newsmen that charred bodies of over 36 persons had since been evacuated from the scene of the explosion while several others with varying degrees of injury were taken to nearby hospitals.
The explosion, eyewitnesses said, occurred at about 9.00 a.m. while Christian worshippers were in churches around the area. But as soon as people started running for dear life, traffic along the ever busy Junction Road that links the northern part of the city with the southern part was paralysed and worshippers abandoned church services in multitudes.
An eyewitness, Mr Nwachukwu, who was on his way to church, said as he was waiting for a bus with other commuters near the Sardauna Crescent, he saw a man wearing combat shorts coming out from a Honda car but within the twinkle of an eye, the man could not be seen as a powerful explosion rocked the area.
The suicide bomber was roasted in the explosion as he tried to flee, while his car that was carrying the explosive devices was shattered leaving only the damaged engine by the roadside.
Pandemonium ensued in the area as the powerful explosion, which was heard seven kilometres away, also affected buildings along Junction Road. These included the Marhaba Hotel, Pejay Hotel, the FirstBank and residential buildings.
Although no group or individual has so far claimed responsibility for the explosion, security agents were of the belief that the suicide bomber might have been heading towards the southern part of the state capital before the incident occurred. The explosion was described as the worst that had ever happened in Kaduna.
According to Malam Zakari, who was mourning the death of a friend, “bodies of victims blown into pieces littered the streets around the scene of the explosion, including tea vendors, a bean cake seller, a fruit seller and a local woman selling akara. Their wares were seen at the scene of the explosion. The bomb went off instantly killing the bombers and over 20 commercial motorcyclists.
“The car carrying the explosive device was a 2003 Honda End Of Discussion with registration number BB111DKA.The injured persons were taken to St. Gerald’s Catholic Hospital, Barau Dikko Hospital, Rakiya Hospital and 44 Army Reference Hospital in Kaduna. Red Cross staff had collected five dead bodies and were treating 15 who were seriously injured. There would probably be more casualties because police and other emergency workers also collected bodies.
“The blast shattered windows of nearby churches and business premises. Many vehicles were also destroyed. It was a big bomb because it created a huge hole in the ground,” he narrated.
The Commissioner of Police in Kaduna State, Mohammed Jinjiri Abubakar, said intelligence report received said two suspected vehicles heading towards the Kakuri / Sabon Tasha axis exploded while on transit.
“The two vehicles were pursued by Detective Corporal Francis Marcus, and then suddenly one of the vehicles hit the other, thereby causing a serious bomb explosion between the two vehicles on Junction Road by Sardauna Crescent in Kaduna. The bomb explosion was massive which resulted in the death of the suicide bomber and five persons with 16 people who were passers-by, injured.
“Police and other security agencies are investigating the issue and final report will soon be made public.
“I want to appeal to the people of the state to remain calm and to go about their lawful business and to report any suspicious movement to security agents for further investigation and action,” he said.
According to two survivors receiving treatment at Saint Gerald Hospital, “we were both riding on top of a motorcycle, when suddenly the vehicle in front of us exploded. There was a thick smoke and the motorcycle rider died instantly.
“The car just exploded in front of us; we were just lucky to escape with body and limb injuries, because we were riding in between the moving suicide car and a CRV that was completely destroyed by the bombers. But the okada rider was not that lucky. The car was said to be speeding to its targeted destination before it accidentally exploded at the 'T' junction and left a big hole in the middle of the road.”
The Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Sani Sidi, in an interview at the scene of the blast, told newsmen that even though NEMA was yet to ascertain the exact figures of the casualties, the agency would foot the medical bill of all those receiving treatment in hospitals.
He said NEMA was taking body-bags to hospitals and would come up with an official figure of casualties.