Abuja - A bomb at a crowded bus station on the outskirts of Abuja killed at least 35 people during rush hour on Monday morning, witnesses said, the first such attack near the Nigerian capital for two years.
Body parts and blood were strewn across the station and an unruly crowd of several hundred onlookers were roaming around with security forces unable to keep them away.
“I was waiting to get on a bus when I heard a deafening explosion then saw smoke. People were running around in panic,” said Mimi Daniels, who works in Abuja.
A Reuters cameraman saw 20 bodies at the station near Nyanyan bridge, about 8km south of Abuja. A second Reuters correspondent saw at least 15 bodies separately loaded into waiting ambulances.
“More than two buses carrying workers were cut up by the blast,” witness Kingsley Ajimobi said. “I saw many people in the bus dead, and many were injured.”
Police and the military did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but suspicion is likely to fall on Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which has waged an increasingly bloody insurgency in the northeast.
Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 60 people in an attack on a village in north-east Nigeria late last week. Eight people were killed in a separate attack at a teacher training college.
The Islamists, who want to carve an Islamic state out of Nigeria, have in the past year mostly concentrated their onslaught in the northeast, where their insurgency started.
There had been no attacks near the capital since suicide car bombers targeted the offices of Nigerian newspaper This Day in Abuja and the northern city of Kaduna in April 2012.
Security forces at the time said that was because a Boko Haram cell in neighbouring Niger state had been broken up.
A Christmas Day bombing of a church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja, killed 37 people in 2011, although the main suspect in that attack is now behind bars. Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on the United Nations' Nigeria headquarters that killed 24 people on August 26, 2011.
Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language of largely Muslim northern Nigeria means “Western education is sinful”, is loosely modelled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, and has forged ties with al-Qaeda-linked militants in the Sahara. - Reuters