Nigeria says ex-militant chief behind March car bombs

ABUJA — Nigeria’s intelligence agency on Wednesday accused the suspected mastermind of independence day car bombings of also being behind a similar attack months earlier in the oil city of Warri.

The new allegations come ahead of a decision expected in South Africa on Friday over whether to grant bail to the suspect, Henry Okah, over the independence day attacks on October 1 in Abuja that killed at least 12 people.

Okah, an alleged ex-leader of militant group MEND, lives in South Africa and was arrested there on October 2. He has said he is innocent.

According to a spokeswoman for Nigeria’s intelligence agency, Okah took part in a March attack in Warri outside a building where talks on a government amnesty programme were being held.

The March twin car bombings killed at least one person.

“It has been uncovered that Henry Okah came from South Africa for the Warri bombings, purchased the cars which were then moved to the welder and later to the house of one of the suspects on 13th March, 2010, where he personally wired the bombs,” spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar said in a statement.

“Subsequently, on 14th March, 2010, Okah departed the country, apparently to create an alibi for himself over the bombing that eventually took place the next day.”

She said the perpetrators of the Warri bombings have been arrested, adding “they are the same people used by Henry Okah to execute the October 1, 2010 bombings.”

MEND — the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta — is Nigeria’s most prominent militant group and claims to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue. It has also been seen as an umbrella organisation for criminal gangs.

A government amnesty offered last year greatly reduced unrest in the Niger Delta, the heart of one of the world’s largest oil industries, but several incidents have occurred in recent months ahead of elections early next year.

The independence day bombings were the first such attack in the nation’s capital.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running in the elections, is from the Niger Delta and faces pressure to resolve the situation in the region.

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