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Nigeria Attacks May Show Dangerous Rift in MEND

Two suspects have been named in car bombings that killed more than a dozen people in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on 1 October on the occasion of the country’s 50th independence anniversary. The suspects are said to be Nigerian, though President Goodluck Jonathan had earlier suggested that the group behind the attack was from outside the country. Also earlier, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had allegedly claimed responsibility for the attack. Hours before the attack, MEND allegedly dispatched emails to various media houses, threatening that they would bomb the anniversary venue. MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo had claimed that several explosive devices had been "successfully planted" in and around the venue, warning guests to leave the area by 10:30 a.m. The warning, which some newspapers published online, was not heeded by security forces. MEND leader Henry Okah was arrested in Johannesburg on 4 October. Okah told reporters that his group was not responsible for the attack.

Analytical Note: The original alleged statement from MEND claiming responsibility for the attack signifies possible internal complications. Okah has denied responsibility and even condemned the attacks. Last year, the group signed a ceasefire agreement with the government. That deal also called for amnesty and cash settlements for former fighters who turned in their weapons. This has apparently caused an internal rift within MEND, splitting it into factions. As such, the statement of responsibility could have come from one faction of MEND. MEND seeks to redistribute the massive oil wealth of the Niger Delta and ensure that the local population reaps some of the benefits from their natural resources. If MEND, or a faction of the group, was indeed behind the attacks in Abuja, it would be the first time the capital was targeted in such a way by the group and would signify major changes within the original group’s repertoire. 




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