ABUJA- Nigerian authorities have arrested one suspect, and killed another, after a bomb claimed 21 lives in a shopping centre in the capital Abuja, a city gripped by fear of attacks by Boko Haram Islamists.
Wednesday’s blast shook the Emab Plaza at 4:00 pm (1500 GMT), the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said, as shoppers were buying groceries ahead of the country’s World Cup match against Argentina, which kicked-off an hour later.
“The casualty figure for now is 21 persons dead, 17 injured,” national police spokesman Frank Mba said, adding that a suspect had been arrested.
Later the National Information Centre said a second suspect had been shot dead by troops as he tried to escape on a motorbike.
Senior government spokesman Mike Omeri confirmed that the blast was the result of “a bomb attack”.
Rescue teams were deployed to the scene and evacuated the victims from the area, NEMA spokesman Manzo Ezekiel told AFP.
“The explosion struck at peak business time,” he said, adding that the area was busy at the time of the blast and that 40 cars had been destroyed.
The blast, at the entrance to the mall, was powerful enough to blow out windows in buildings on the opposite side of the street, an AFP correspondent on the scene in the immediate aftermath said.
The area, sandwiched between two other shopping centres and one of the busiest in central Abuja, was littered with the burnt out wreckage of cars and soaked in pools of congealed blood.