Nigeria attacks: President visits Kano

  • 22 January 2012
  • From the section Africa
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President Goodluck Jonathan's heavily guarded convoy roared through the dusty centre of Kano on Sunday taking him to one of the sites of Friday's devastating bomb attacks, and to a hospital where some of the wounded are being treated.

It was the briefest of tours - perhaps because of security concerns. Crowds lined the streets in some areas but were kept back by armoured cars and soldiers.

At the airport, just before the president boarded his plane, I managed to speak to him for a couple of minutes. It struck me as a rather detached performance from Nigeria's leader.

He was evidently keen to put Boko Haram into an international context: "These suicide attacks are not really part of us - they are quite new to us."

"Unfortunately the whole world is passing through terror attacks - a very ugly stage of our history. We know that we will get over it. We will continue to fight - the security services will not rest till we clean up the country," he said.

President Jonathan said the security forces were now "trailing" Boko Haram, and that "some arrests have been made." But he admitted he had no idea how many militants were involved in Friday's attacks.

"Nobody can say for now - they are not organised armed forces," he said - a slightly odd assessment given that Boko Haram, in carrying out a sophisticated and well co-ordinated series of attacks, have just given a very clear display of quite how organised they can be.

President Jonathan said he was determined to find Boko Haram's sponsors: "Terrorists all over the world have their source of income. We are also looking to those areas to make sure that so-called Boko Haram… those who are encouraging them, those who are sponsoring them, will shortly be brought to book."

The president recently claimed that the militant group had infiltrated Nigeria's government and security services. When I asked him whether - given that - his forces could defeat the organisation, he said "of course - that will even make it easier for us to win."

I did not have a chance to ask him to explain what he meant before he turned and headed towards the plane.

Earlier in the day I visited one of the police stations destroyed on Friday. The commander, who did not want to be named, said about 50 militants had attacked simultaneously from three directions.

They threw explosives at the walls, and then stormed the building, freeing a number of people being detained. The commander said some of those released were Boko Haram supporters involved in bank robberies to fund the group.

He said the police withdrew when they ran out of bullets and escaped over a rear wall. The compound is in ruins, surrounded by burnt motor-bikes and cars.

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