Military authorities on Sunday barred rescue agency officials and journalists from entering the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, where twin bomb blasts killed and injured scores of worshippers in Jaji near Kaduna.
The rescue officials from the National Emergency Management Agency and the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency, on hearing of the blasts had raced to the college but were not allowed to enter by stern-looking soldiers .
Two car bombers had struck at the St. Andrew Military Protestant Church in the college which houses the officers and men of the Infantry Centre and School, the Nigerian Army Peace Keeping Centre as well as the prestigious Armed Forces Command Staff College.
An official of the State Emergency Agency, who did not want his name in print, confirmed that NEMA and SEMA officials were sent back from the barracks.
Even the police authorities could not provide information on the blasts. The Commissioner, state Police Command, Mr Femi Adenaike, when contacted, had referred journalists to the military authorities, whom he said were in a better position to give details of the incident
Army Director of Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Bola Koleoso, put the number of the dead at 11 and injured at 30, but witnesses claimed the casualties were far more.
One of the eyewitnesses, who did not give his name, said, “Many people were killed. I saw many dead bodies. I think the people that died may be in the region of 40 or 50. Even some of those who were injured, I am not very sure they will survive it.”
The incident occurred less than a month after the St. Ritas’ Catholic Church, Ungwan Yero, Malali was bombed and barely 48 hours after the Federal Government offered cash rewards for information that could lead to the arrest of the leaders of the Islamic fundamentalist group, Boko Haram.
Another source at the prestigious military institution said the first blast occurred at about 12:15pm when the church service was over and the congregation had dispersed, leaving only the elders of the church who were holding meetings.
He claimed that the bombers arrived in the college where the nation’s anti-terrorists squad is trained, in a Volkwagen Golf 3 and a Toyota Camry.
Our correspondents was told that just as worshipers surged to see the wreckage of the car, the second bomber arrived and detonated his bomb which killed several people.
Bombers beat military security
A military source also told one of our correspondents that in spite of the heavy security at the main gate of the college, the first bomber beat the military personnel and on getting to the church , parked his car beside one of the windows where the choir stand was before detonating his bomb.
The second explosion happened shortly after at about 12.35 in the church “where many bodies were seen on the ground.”
“The incident happened directly opposite the Directing Staff (Brigadier Quarters). A senior officer was believed to be among the dead,” the military source added.
Those injured in the attack were said to have been taken to the 44 Army Reference Hospital, the Nigerian Air Force Base Hospital in Kaduna and the Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital, Zaria for treatment.
But Koleoso, who in a statement on Sunday, said that investigations into the blasts had begun, added that a bus and not a Golf 3 was the first vehicle that was used in the attacks.
He said, “There were twin suicide bombings today (Sunday) at St. Andrew Military Protestant Church, Jaji Military Cantonment at 1205hrs.
“A bus first ran into the church and exploded about five minutes after service while a Toyota Camry parked outside the church detonated 10 minutes later.
“Figures of casualties were 11 dead and about 30 injured. The injured are receiving treatment at military hospitals both in Jaji and Kaduna.
“Investigations into the bombings have commenced and the area has already been condoned off.”
The AFCSC’s Public Relation Officer, Lt. Col Mohammed Dole, also told reporters that 11 people, mostly worshipers and commercial bike riders doing business in the cantonment died. He added that eight vehicles and many motorcycles were destroyed.