August 30, 2011 / 12:01 PM / 8 years ago

Nigeria leader says will step up security after bomb

ABUJA (Reuters) - President Goodluck Jonathan sought to reassure Nigerians on Tuesday that authorities were stepping up security to prevent further bomb attacks, after a car bomb devastated the U.N. headquarters in Abuja on Friday and killed 23 people.

United Nations (U.N.) Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro (R) gestures to a man injured in Friday's suicide attack on the U.N. headquarters, as she visits victims of the blast in the intensive care unit of the national hospital, in Abuja August 28, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Blackwell/Pool

The bombing, where the driver drove a carload of explosives into the U.N. compound in what may have been Nigeria’s first suicide bombing, has been claimed by the violent Islamist sect Boko Haram.

The group, whose name means “Western education is sinful” in the northern Nigerian Hausa language, is fast becoming a major security headache for Jonathan, with almost daily shootings or attacks with homemade bombs against security services and civilians in the remote northeast.

“The President wishes to reassure all citizens and foreigners ... his administration is taking every necessary action to enhance national security,” his office said in an statement to mark the Muslim Eid-al-Fitr holiday.

The bomb on Friday gutted a floor, smashed nearly all of the windows and wounded 76 people, U.N. officials said, in one of the worst attacks on the U.N. in its history.

Jonathan has refused to be drawn on who could have carried out the attack. Security services have also declined to comment on who was behind the bombing, seen by many as an embarrassing security breach for the government.

“President Jonathan has directed the security services to rapidly evolve ... additional security, intelligence-gathering and counter-terrorism measures,” the statement said.

It gave no further details.

Inspector-General of Police Hafiz Ringim told diplomats late on Tuesday that a number of arrests had already been made in connection with the bomb, but gave no details. He also offered diplomats whatever special security coverage they required.

A Boko Haram spokesman called Abu Kakah has claimed the attack for the group and demanded the release of prisoners and an end to a security crackdown to prevent more bombs.

“The President wishes to assure Nigerians that he will not be distracted ... by the actions of terrorists and retrogressive elements in the country,” the statement said.

Violence flared in the ethnically and religiously mixed city of Jos on Monday, another headache for Nigeria’s stretched security services.

Reporting by Felix Onuah; Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Matthew Jones

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