ABUJA, NIGERIA (BNO NEWS) -- Two powerful bomb blasts targeted the offices of a prominent newspaper in Nigeria on Thursday morning, killing between four to six people and injuring more than a dozen others, officials said. The militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility.
The first attack happened just after 11 a.m. local time when a suicide bomber drove his SUV through the gates of ThisDay's office in Abuja before detonating his explosives, causing severe damage to the newspaper's office and other nearby buildings. Some 10 vehicles were also damaged.
At around the same time, a second bomber detonated an explosive device at ThisDay's office in Kaduna, the capital of the state in north-central Nigeria which carries the same name. The bomber, who was injured, was arrested. The same complex in Kaduna also houses the offices of newspapers The Sun and The Moment.
ThisDay Managing Director Eniola Bello confirmed a security officer named Christopher Sadiq and three passer-bys were killed in the attacks, but Nigerian officials put the death toll at six. It was not immediately clear what caused the conflicting numbers, although the higher death toll may include the Abuja suicide bomber.
"We regard the coordinated bombings as an attack on journalism and free speech," Bello said. "However, we want to assure our readers and advertisers that we remain committed to the fundamental principles on which the newspaper is founded: democracy, free enterprise and social justice."
"We will not be deterred in our pursuit of truth and reason. No amount of threat or intimidation will weaken our resolve," Bello added. He also thanked emergency workers who attended the scene and urged the country's security agencies to investigate the coordinated attacks.
Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan also condemned the attack, describing them as 'ignoble, misguided, horrendous and wicked.' He reaffirmed the commitment of the federal government to continue to uphold the constitutional right to freedom of expression in general and of press freedom in particular, pledging that criminal elements bent on instilling fear in the minds of Nigerians and foreigners will not succeed.
"The President urged media practitioners not to be dissuaded from carrying out their fearless campaign for peace, justice and equity as democracy cannot flourish without press freedom," the president's office said in a statement. "President Jonathan commiserated with the bereaved families and other innocent victims of the explosions, and also prayed that Almighty God will grant them succor in their moment of grief and the souls of the departed, peaceful repose."
Abul Qaqa, a spokesman for the militant group Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attack. "We have repeatedly cautioned reporters and media houses to be professional and objective in their reports," the spokesman told the Premium Times. "This is a war between us and the Government of Nigeria; unfortunately the media have not been objective and fair in their report of the ongoing war, they chose to take side."
Qaqa accused Nigerian media organizations of engaging in a negative campaign against the Boko Haram, producing 'fictional stories' and promoting 'fake stories' released by Nigeria's Joint Military Task Force (JTF) which 'give the impression' they are succeeding against the militant group.
"But the sins of ThisDay are more," the spokesman told the Premium Times. "They once insulted the Prophet Muhammad in 2001 and we have not forgotten. They recently said our Imam executed me which is false. Here I am speaking to you, I am alive and healthy."
The group further warned it will carry out more attacks against Nigerian news organizations. "We have just started this new campaign against the media and we will not stop here, we will hit the media hard since they have refused to listen to our plea for them to be fair in their reportage," Qaqa said.
He added: "The media in Nigeria are not a problem to us if they will do their job professionally without taking sides. But each time we say something, it is either changed or downplayed. But when our enemy says something even without logical proof, it is blown out of proportion. We have repeatedly asked some reporters to retract some stories or even give us the right of reply but none of these requests were given to us."
The Boko Haram group has been blamed for most of the region's terrorist attacks and seeks the imposition of an extremist stance of the Shariah law, which is a Muslim code of conduct. The group's name, in the local language of Hausa, roughly translates as 'Western religion is sacrilegious' or 'non-Islamic religion is a sin.
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