During the rush hour this Monday morning, a bomb blew up at a bus station on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, killing 75 and injuring more than 200.
The explosion destroyed 16 luxury buses and 24 minibuses and cars, and threw body parts all over the scene, where hundreds of people were getting ready for their morning commute. The explosion also left a four-foot crater in the ground.
As you might expect, the president visited the site of the attack and condemned the group that likely is responsible for the attack.
What’s strange is that you probably are hearing about this attack for the first time.
That’s because this bombing — the worst in the capital city’s history — took place in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa.
Here’s a picture of Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, talking at the scene of the attack (I’m betting you never heard of him either).
This bombing appeared briefly on the “digital front page” of the New York Times Tuesday morning. I happened to see it on my iPhone, where the article looked like this:
The physical front page of the New York Times on Tuesday looked like this:
If you look way in the bottom left corner, you will see the article about the bombing in Nigeria’s capital:
So it was a blurb on the front page — which is better than not being on the front page at all. But most U.S. news sources I’ve seen this week have provided no follow-up to this story, which is why most people in the U.S. have no idea this horrible event even happened.
If you type “Abuja bomb site” into YouTube, there are some videos of the aftermath of the attack. Here’s a screen shot from a 2-minute CNN video:
What has been all over the news is the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
That makes sense, especially since the Marathon is coming up on Monday.
I’m not criticizing the focus on Boston, which took an emotional toll on the United States. I grew up in Newton, a suburb of Boston, and that attack shook me. I’ve been to the Boston Marathon several times and I can picture the site of the bombing.
What made the Boston attack particularly bad was that athletes from around the world came to Boston to compete in an event that is supposed to be a celebration of the best in athletics. And bombings don’t usually happen in major US cities.
The Boston bombing was well-covered. Indeed, it was hard to miss the manhunt that took place in Boston and kept the cities of Boston and Watertown on lockdown for most of the day on April 19, 2013. I remember being riveted that whole day until the second bomber was located.
But think about this: the Boston Marathon bombing killed three people and injured 264.
The bombing in Nigeria’s capital this Monday — an attack you likely did not hear about until just now — killed 75 people and injured more than 200. Both of those numbers are likely to go up in the coming days as Nigerian officials sort through what happened.
What I’m wondering is why there isn’t more coverage of this horrific bombing in Nigeria’s capital city.
I’m guessing that a big part of the reason is that most Americans don’t know much about Africa.
For starters, I’m quite certain that very few US students — or adults — know that Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, or that its capital is Abuja.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that most Americans — young and old — would be challenged to locate Nigeria on a blank map of Africa:
How about it? Could you find Nigeria?
Even though it has more than 175 million people, which makes it the seventh most populated country in the world, Nigeria isn’t on most Americans’ radar screen.
I did not know, until I looked into it this morning, that Nigeria is predicted to pass the US in population by 2050.
It would be good to learn more about Nigeria, and about Boko Haram, the group that is likely responsible for the bombing in Abuja.
Here’s a recent paragraph from a recent CNN article that makes the case for why we should know something about Nigeria:
With a population of 175 million, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and is considered a political and economic powerhouse in the continent. The key U.S. partner is rich in oil, a major trading partner with China, and is the hub of global business in the region.
What’s interesting is that the CNN article that makes the case for learning more about Nigeria is not even about the bombing in Abjua (though it does mention the bombing in the 24th paragraph of the article). CNN is covering another horrible story out of Nigeria — the abduction by Boko Haram of more than 100 school girls in north eastern Nigeria, and how that brazen act signals that Boko Haram is expanding its power in Nigeria.
How can the worst-ever bombing in the capital of Africa’s most populated country hardly even register on the US news scene?
This is the end of my post — what follows is a post-script for people who care about Google Earth…
When I started to look into the bombing in Abuja, I tried to locate the precise site of the bombing on Google Earth so I could better empathize — and it was very difficult to find the site.
I read conflicting reports about the location of the Nyanya Motor Park (and for the record, Google Earth does not know where Nyanya is located).
First, I read on the BBC that
The blast ripped a hole 4ft deep (1.2m) in the ground of Nyanya Motor Park, some 16km (10 miles) from the city centre, and destroyed more than 30 vehicles, causing secondary explosions as their fuel tanks ignited and burned, the Associated Press news agency reports.
Then, I read, on Al Jazeera, that
The bus station, 8km southwest of central Abuja, serves Nyanya, a poor, ethnically and religiously mixed satellite town. Nyanya is filled with government and civil society workers who cannot afford Abuja’s exorbitant rents.
How can the site of the bombing be both 16km from the center of the city and also 8km southwest of the city?
I then read this account from USA Today, which seems to corroborate the 16km distance (10 miles is about 16 km):
The blast left a hole 4 feet deep in the ground of Nyanya Motor Park about 10 miles from the city center. It happened at 6:45 a.m. as people were traveling to work.
There was no immediate claim for Monday’s bombing though bus stations are a favored Boko Haram target. In March 2013, the extremists drove a car bomb into the main bus station in Kano, Nigeria’s second biggest city, killing at least 25 people.
Boko Haram’s campaign to make Nigeria an Islamic state with Sharia, or Islamic law, enforced throughout the country poses the greatest threat to its cohesion and security and threatens nearby countries where the fighters have gone to train and fight.
[By the way, Boko Haram basically translates to “western education is sin.” I first heard of Boko Haram last May from Karina, an 11-year old from Nigeria who is home-schooled here in Durham, NC. Karina even wrote a guest blog post about Nigeria.]
I finally did an image search for a map of the Abuja bombing, and I found this satellite picture at the end of an article from the BBC:
When I went onto Google Earth, I looked about 10 miles (16km) from Abuja’s center, and I was able to locate a cloverleaf. The triangular structures in two of the leafs of the cloverleaf helped me determine that I found the right place:
To provide some context, here’s the site of the bombing in relation to Abuja’s city center — and I measured… it’s a little more than 10km away — not 16km. And it’s south EAST of the city center, not south west.
But hey, it’s Africa — so the details don’t matter, right?
We need to start paying more attention to events in Africa and around the world.