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How President Jonathan Escaped Assassination In Gombe State

First Bank Nigeria

jonathanPresident Goodluck Jonathan on Monday escaped a suspected suicide bomb blast after he left a campaign rally in northeast Nigeria, as the country braced for fresh Boko Haram attacks before polling day.

The head of state had been addressing supporters of his ruling Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP) in Gombe city and had just left the venue when the
blast happened in a car park outside.

Rescue workers and health officials said the bodies of two women were
brought to the Gombe State Specialist Hospital with 18 people who were
injured. The target of the attack was not clear.

“We have evacuated two bodies of females we believe were suicide bombers
behind the blast,” said the rescue official, who asked to remain anonymous
because he was not authorised to speak to media.

Two bombings in the city killed at least five on Sunday, when the
Islamists were also repelled from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, for
the second time in a week.

Nigeria’s government meanwhile claimed that it had retaken Gamboru and
four other towns after a joint weekend offensive by its military, civilian
vigilantes and forces from Chad and Cameroon.

“Our troops are in control after operations which had the active support
of volunteers (vigilantes) and our friendly neighbours,” national security
spokesman Mike Omeri told AFP.

The military progress comes after Chadian fighter jets have for three days
been bombing Boko Haram positions in the town of Gamboru, according to an
AFP reporter in Fotokol, a Cameroonian town less than one kilometre (mile)
from Gamboru. The situation appeared quiet by Monday evening, he said.

Security analysts believe the key city of Maiduguri will likely be hit
again before polling day, given its symbolism for the group and because it
would further undermine the February 14 vote.

The election is expected to be the closest since Nigeria returned to
civilian rule in 1999, with the prospect of the PDP being dumped out of
power for the first time in 16 years.

– Regional force –

Boko Haram is in control of most of Borno state and has effectively
surrounded Maiduguri, which is seen as one of the few places left in the
state where voting could feasibly still take place.

But turnout could be affected if large numbers of people, many of them
displaced by six years of violence, desert the city, which with other
areas in the northeast is a main opposition stronghold.

Capturing Maiduguri would not only be a morale-booster for the rebels but
also likely sink Jonathan’s re-election bid once and for all, said Obasi.

Chad’s offensive comes after the African Union and United Nations last
week backed a new 7,500-strong, five-nation force to tackle Boko Haram.

Nigeria’s military maintains that N’Djamena’s involvement is part of an
existing agreement with Chad and Niger for their troops to assist in the
Chad and Niger had withdrawn their troops from the multi-national base at
Baga, in northern Borno, last year, leaving only Nigerian soldiers to
defend the town when it was attacked on January 3, a massive assault in
which hundreds were feared killed.

It was that devastating attack that appears to have jolted the
multi-national effort back into action.

– Two fronts –

Jonathan, who has been criticised for failing to end the violence, could
be hoping for a political bounce from any military successes in the tight
election campaign, even at this late stage.

But Mark Schroeder, from security and political analysts Stratfor,
believes that allowing foreign forces to operate on Nigerian soil would be
counter-productive to him and the country.

“This is essentially absolving Nigeria of its long-standing geopolitical
strength as the region’s hegemon able to assist internal and pan-West
African security stability,” he said.

Schroeder, the group’s vice-president for Africa analysis, also considered
Nigerian army operations no more than “forays”, adding that a sustained
effort was needed to claw back territory.

Boko Haram’s attacks on Maiduguri may be designed to draw the Nigerian
army to defend the city, allowing the group to mount strikes elsewhere in
the northeast and defend eastern positions.

Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst at risk consultants Red24, suggested
the last two attacks may have been preliminary tests of the city’s

“Boko Haram is currently in its most advantageous tactical position to
launch a large-scale offensive on Maiduguri, with the intent of actually
capturing the city,” he said.

“This could be the preamble to such a push. I still remain sceptical as to
whether Boko Haram has the resources to either capture or hold a city the
size of Maiduguri.

“But the sect may well be planning to give it a go.”

More than 13,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the Boko
Haram insurgency in 2009 in Nigeria and close to 1.5 million people have
been made homeless.

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