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Ground transportation securityThe Nigerian bus terminal attack: Public transport is a lucrative terror target

Published 23 April 2014

During the morning rush hour on 14 April, a car bomb containing an estimated 500-800 pounds of explosives blew up at the Nyanya District bus station on the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria. Terrorism experts from the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) say we should note the significance of the attack for the rest of the world and put the facts into a larger perspective. Looking at all attacks on public surface transportation systems worldwide since 1970, the Abuja bombing was the twelfth most lethal attack. When comparing similar attack methods, it was the ninth most lethal attack.

Remains of buses following Boku Haram's attack in Nigeria // Source: baomoi.com

During the morning rush hour on 14 April, a car bomb containing an estimated 500-800 pounds of explosives blew up at the Nyanya District bus station on the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria.

Brian Michael Jenkins and Bruce R. Butterworth, terrorism experts from the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), say we should note the significance of the attack for the rest of the world and put the facts into a larger perspective.

The bomb obliterated four large buses filled with passengers and many smaller buses,” said Jenkins, director of MTI’s National Transportation Safety and Security Center and a terrorism expert. “The latest casualty figures as of 15 April put the death toll at 75, with 141 wounded, but the number of fatalities is expected to rise. That makes this the deadliest bomb attack on Nigeria’s capital and the first terrorist bombing in Abuja since December 2011, when a bomb was detonated at a Catholic church, killing 41 people.”

In August 2011, another vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) was detonated at the United Nations headquarters in the city. That bomb left twenty-three dead. 

Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack
The Nigerian authorities blamed the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, a group which seeks to establish an independent Muslim state in the North of Nigeria. On Saturday, Boko Haram — which in the Hausa language translates roughly as “Western Education Is a Sin” — took responsibility for the attack.

Boko Haram was founded in 2002 but began its terrorist campaign in 2009. The political upheavals across North Africa, and in particular Libya’s civil war, destabilized the entire region and exacerbated local conflicts. Boko Haram escalated its campaign. More than 4,000 people have been killed in the past four years.

Including casualties from the bus terminal bombing, more than 1,500 people have died in Boko Haram attacks thus far in 2014.

Most of Boko Haram’s attacks were directed against police stations, but it has increasingly attacked civilian targets, including public transportation, markets, and churches. The group opposes the education of girls and has also carried out a number of deadly attacks on schools.

On the same day as the Abuja bombing, Boko Haram kidnapped more than a hundred students from a girl’s school in Nigeria.