KANO, Nigeria (AP) — A car bomb exploded in the Christian neighborhood of Nigeria’s second most populous and mainly Muslim city of Kano, killing five people, hours before police discovered another massive car bomb in Kano’s ancient mud city precinct on Monday.
Police Superintendent Aderenle Shinaba said the car exploded Sunday night before the bomber reached his target of the busy restaurants and bars lining Gold Coast Street, indicating the casualties could have been much higher. He said five people were killed, including the bomber, and seven were wounded.
Monday morning, police “averted what could have been another devastating bomb blast in the ancient city of Kano,” according to national police spokesman Frank Mba. He said police operatives, acting on intelligence, tracked and recovered a station wagon loaded with gas cylinders, fuel and electrical components of improvised explosive devices. Bomb disposal experts diffused the bombs, he said.
The Sabon Gari Christian quarter is a popular area where people dine, play games, dance and drink alcohol late into the night — all anathema to the Islamic extremists blamed for previous attacks in the neighborhood.
Multiple blasts in Sabon Gari — the name means “Strangers’ Quarters” in the Hausa language — killed at least 24 people last July and a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into the neighborhood’s bustling bus station in March 2013, killing at least 25 people.
Alcohol is forbidden under Shariah law that holds in the largely Muslim city but authorities generally turn a blind eye to the Christian neighborhood and hotels.
Previous explosions have been blamed on the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram that claimed responsibility for two explosions last month in Abuja, the capital in the center of the country, that killed more than 120 people and wounded more than 200.
World attention turned on the group with its mass abduction a month ago of 276 schoolgirls whom it is threatening to sell into slavery if the government does not release detained militants. Officials say Nigeria will not swap the girls for detainees. Several countries including the United States, France and Britain have sent military experts in surveillance, intelligence gathering and hostage negotiation to help bring the girls back home.
Nigeria’s 5-year-old Islamic uprising has killed thousands with attacks increasing in frequency and deadliness this year despite a year-old state of emergency. More than 1,500 civilians have been killed in the uprising so far this year.