As fans gathered together to watch a Brazil-Mexico match in the Nigerian town of Damaturu, it is believed that a suicide bomber detonated a tricycle taxi which was full of explosives. According to hospital officials, it is believed that at least 13 Nigerian soccer fans were killed during the suicide bomb blast with at least 20 injured. Among some of the killed were small children.
Following the blast, police officials have declined to give specific details pertaining to the explosion, however the investigation is underway. Several trucks were seen carrying bodies to the nearby General Hospital. With casualties filling the hospital emergency room, it was not immediately clear how severe the injuries were or if there were any fatalities.
Witnesses have reported hearing a loud boom sound, with some residents of the town claiming that they had heard a second explosion. Some witness have also reported that it was not a suicide bomber, but simply a terrorist that dropped off the explosive. As the police work to gather further information, the Nigerian government has recommended that the residents avoid public gatherings, especially those related to the World Cup. Damaturu is capital city of the Yobe state, which is an area that has been frequently attacked by the extremist militant Islamist group called Boko Haram.
Boko Haram has close ties with Al Queda and their name is translated to “Western education is sin.” They have taken on the task of attempting to destroy everything that they believe to be Western corruption. In April, the extremist group kidnapped nearly 300 school girls from nearby Borno state, which is a neighboring state of Yobe. The Islamist group has condemned World Cup as well as any other activities related to soccer, claiming that it was “anti-Islamic.” Although there is no official claim by Boko Haram for the attack, many are blaming the terrorist group which has been targeting sports bars and soccer viewing centers in the past.
The deadly attack on the viewing center is not the first one in the past month. Earlier this month, another World Cup viewing venue was targeted in northeast Nigeria, there soccer fans had gathered to watch soccer and it is believed that at least 14 people were killed, and 12 wounded. These assaults have lead to many citizens fearing a potential attack when they gather to view any other global sporting events. While soccer is widely popular in Africa, and particularly Nigeria, many rely on these viewing centers to watch the live coverage of the sport. Other Nigerian soccer fans were killed in a suicide bomb blast when they went to watch a soccer match in the town of Mubi. At least 40 people were killed as they were attempting to leave the venue following the final whistle blow.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has preached against soccer, imposing strict Islamic laws in northern Nigeria. Shekau described music and soccer as ploys of the Western countries to distract Muslims from their religion.
Despite the threats of attacks, many Nigerian soccer fans still want to cheer on their team. Soccer is considered Nigeria’s national sport and the World Cup tournament brings with it weeks of joy and celebration as crowds gather in giant and frequently open areas to show support for their sports heroes. Some of the citizens have also said that they would rather watch the sport at home, as they fear more Nigerian citizens and soccer fans will be injured or killed in future suicide bomb blasts in these viewing centers.
Commentary by Ivelina Kunina