KANO, Nigeria, Aug 3 – A top Muslim traditional leader in northeastern Nigeria escaped a suicide attack on Friday, when the bomber was thwarted by local people before blowing himself up, residents said.
Several people were wounded in the blast outside the main mosque after Friday prayers ended in the town of Potiskum, one witness said, as a police official said he was awaiting further details of the attack.
The target of the attack was Muhammad Abali, the top Muslim traditional leader in Yobe state, where Potiskum is located, and whose official title is the Emir of Fika.
It was the latest such attack targeting Muslim leaders in northern Nigeria, where radical Islamist group Boko Haram accuses establishment Islamic figures of being too close to the country’s corrupt elite.
“A man who looked in his 40s … approached the emir and tried to embrace him, but people around pushed him away, and at that moment, a bomb concealed under his caftan went off,” one witness said.
Those wounded included the emir’s bodyguard, a mosque aid worker and a nurse, the witness said. The attack was said to have occurred as the emir left the mosque near his palace after weekly prayers.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though Potiskum has been hard hit by violence blamed on Boko Haram.
“I and my brother were leaving the mosque through a different gate when I heard an explosion followed by a commotion as worshippers tried to flee,” another resident said.
“I fled the mosque, but some minutes later when the news of what happened spread, I came back to the mosque and I saw a large crowd watching the dismembered body of the attacker.”
Some three weeks ago, a suicide bomber tried to assassinate another key Islamic leader outside his mosque after Friday prayers but missed his target and killed five others.
The target of that attack was Umar Garbai el-Kanemi, who carries the title of Shehu of northeastern Borno state, where Boko Haram has been based. Yobe state borders Borno.
On Wednesday, Boko Haram claimed suicide blasts at two police posts in the country’s northwest and a separate attack at a home belonging to Vice President Namadi Sambo.
Twin bombings on Monday in the city of Sokoto, the historic seat of Islam in the country, killed two people and wounded 30 others. The bombers also died in the blasts.
Gunmen had fired on Sambo’s home in the northern town of Zaria on Monday. One civilian was killed in the assault.
No one lives at the house, which is undergoing repairs to damage inflicted during post-election riots in 2011.
Boko Haram has killed hundreds in an insurgency that has been focused in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north, with attacks also occurring in the country’s religiously and ethnically divided centre.
The country, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.