Nigeria suicide bombs kills 82

Nigeria's opposition leader has described one of the bombings as an assassination attempt.

People stand at a scene where a bomb exploded on 23 July 2014 in Kaduna, north of Nigeria. Picture: AFP.

KADUNA - Nigeria opposition leader and ex-president Muhammadu Buhari has described yesterday's bomb attack, which targeted his convoy in the north Nigerian city of Kaduna, as an assassination attempt.

At least 82 people were killed on Wednesday in two suicide bombings in Kaduna, one aimed at Buhari and another at a moderate Muslim cleric about to lead a crowd in prayer.

The attacks bore the hallmarks of Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which considers all those who do not share its views to be enemies. But it may also have been linked to politics before the 2015 elections.

Describing how he narrowly escaped the attack on Wednesday, Buhari said he was the target of the bomber who hurtled towards his convoy at the crowded Kawo market.

He said the bomber came from a fast moving vehicle that made many attempts to overtake his security car but was blocked by hisescort vehicle.

A Red Cross official said at least 50 people were killed there.

Just a few days ago, the former Nigerian leader had written a critically worded letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, detailing how some of the president's decisions may impact Nigeria's unity.

Buhari was the main opposition party contender against Jonathan in the 2011 election and remains a key figure in the opposition alliance. He was riding in an armour-plated sport utility vehicle and was not wounded.

A crowd gathered at the scene of the explosion until the military dispersed them by firing shots in the air. Smoke rose from another vehicle destroyed in the blast.

"When I came out of my car I saw many dead bodies littered around," Buhari said in a statement, calling the attack "mass murder" and "clearly an assassination attempt".

Earlier, a suicide bomber on foot, targeting a moderate cleric, killed at least 32 of his congregation on a busy commercial road.

Thousands were gathered for prayers with Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi in Murtala Muhammed square. When his convoy pulled up, the bomber lunged at him before being stopped by his private security, witnesses and police commissioner Shehu Umar Ambursa said.

Kaduna's governor, Mukhtar Yero, declared a 24-hour curfew in the city until further notice and condemned the bombs as "the height of cowardice".

President Jonathan in a statement called it "an odious attempt to inflame passions and exacerbate disquiet, fear, insecurity and sectional divisions in the country."

Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the US State Department, called on the Nigerian authorities to fully investigate the latest attacks.

Additional reporting by Reuters