Terrorist Group Suspected In Nigerian Attacks

An attack on the Nigerian city of Jos has killed at least 118 people. No group has claimed responsibility, but suspicion quickly fell on Boko Haram, the group now holding nearly 300 girls hostage.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. U.S. military personnel have now been deployed to help find the nearly 300 school girls kidnapped in Nigeria by the militant group Boko Haram. In a letter to Congress, President Obama says about 80 personnel remain in neighboring Chad until their support is no longer needed. The search for the girls goes on during a deadly week in Nigeria.

Daily attacks are suspected to be the work of Boko Haram. In a moment, we'll hear from a Nigeria analyst about why the group is undeterred by its country's army. First, to the central city of Jos. NPR's Gregory Warner reports an explosion yesterday killed at least 118 people, one of the deadliest attacks in the five-year insurgency.

GREGORY WARNER, BYLINE: Outside the Plateau Specialist Hospital here in Jos, there's a short list of names taped to the stucco wall. It's the list of bomb blast victims being treated inside. Ali Francis(ph) has already checked all the local morgues, but now he's back to searching this list of the living, incanting the name of his 18-year-old niece.

ALI FRANCIS: Ene Francis, E-N-E.

WARNER: Ene Francis was working in her mom's restaurant in the downtown vegetable market. It was Tuesday, market day, so the restaurant was packed. Ene's mom, the proprietor, had just handed her daughter two big plates of fu-fu(ph), a local staple.

FRANCIS: She sent her to deliver the meal to some customers and we think that shut the roads. There was a bomb blast so that she couldn't come back again.

WARNER: Ruth Joseph(ph), a 30-year-old seamstress, was also in a restaurant, maybe the same one with her 3-year-old daughter. When a car exploded nearby, the small building of wood and corrugated tin collapsed on them both.

RUTH JOSEPH: The police have bridge and the fire up here for (unintelligible) for everybody is trying to run away.

WARNER: She fell down while looking for her daughter in the flames. Hours later, she woke up in the hospital, a different hospital from where I found here. Somehow, someone has found her daughter and using the fairly tight community of vendors, reunited her with her mom. The child was sleeping next to her covered with burns.

JOSEPH: (Unintelligible) on her legs.

WARNER: There's burns.

JOSEPH: Is burned.

WARNER: No group has yet claimed responsibility for the deadly blasts. Suspicion has fallen on Boko Haram, which has waged a campaign of such attacks in recent years. And yet, if it was Boko Haram, a group that claims to want to take down the Nigerian government and impose Islamic law, the target was not an especially Christian area. Muslims work and shop here, too.

Now is it a place connected with government. Dr. Bawa Dulahiwasi(ph) is an instructor at the Police Staff College here in Jos and also the author of a book on Boko Haram. He says the humbleness of this target was the point.

BAWA DULAHIWASI: There is no director that goes to the market to buy. There is no commissioner that goes to the market to buy. There is no senator that goes to the market to buy. It is all the common people that were - are dying.

WARNER: Wasi blames local politicians for trying to stoke religious tensions in the run-up to elections in February.

DULAHIWASI: Some bad politicians hide on that - these hoodlums. This is the origin of Boko Haram.

WARNER: But if Boko Haram began as the henchmen of powerful politicians, it may be turning the tables. Few believe that politicians ordered Boko Haram to abduct school girls. The militants may now be exploiting Nigeria's political divisions for their own ends. Gregory Warner, NPR News, Jos.

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