UN honors guards, others killed in Nigeria bombing

AP News
Posted: Sep 15, 2011 10:44 AM
UN honors guards, others killed in Nigeria bombing

United Nations officials and diplomats eulogized those killed in an Aug. 26 car bombing at the world body's headquarters in Nigeria on Thursday, promising their work was not in vain.

Nigerian soldiers wearing the berets of U.N. peacekeepers fired a 21-gun salute just outside the shattered building where 23 people died and another 116 were wounded in the attack claimed by a radical Muslim sect. Officials laid a wreath to commemorate the loss, as placards bearing smiling photographs of the dead stood nearby.

Daouda Toure, the U.N.'s resident coordinator in Nigeria, read a brief statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and went on to praise those who died for displaying the values and valor of the organization.

Toure's comments also offered a glimpse of what happened the day of the attack, when a suicide bomber in a sedan slammed through two exit gates to drive his car up into the glass reception hall of the building.

"We are called upon to remember the heroics of the female security personnel, who ran to the car that crashed into the U.N. House, thinking the driver had been involved in an accident," Toure said. "Offering to help, only to be blown apart. ... Such are the values and principles which drive our work."

Nigeria's Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru, representing the oil-rich nation's president, said his nation would do whatever it can in the future to support the U.N.'s work.

Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people, is split largely between a Christian south and a Muslim north. Unemployment and unceasing poverty, coming despite the nation making billions a year from oil production, have fueled resentment in recent years in the north.

The unrest helped create the sect known locally as Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for the attack. The group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, seeks to implement strict Shariah law across the country. The group, which is carrying out an increasingly bloody sectarian fight against Nigeria's weak central government, has reported links to terror groups al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Shabab of Somalia.

The country remains vital to U.S. oil supplies, but the crude rests in the nation's southern delta, far from the current violence. However, the U.N. attack shows a new level of sophistication by Boko Haram and a willingness to target foreigners.