The man believed to have masterminded a car bombing that killed 12 people in Nigeria’s capital also allegedly wired another set of bombs that exploded earlier in the country’s oil-rich southern delta, an official said Wednesday.
By attempting to link Henry Okah to the March 15 bombing, authorities sought to further implicate him in recent violence claimed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the region’s main militant group. Okah faces terrorism charges in South Africa, where he now lives, over his role in October’s bombings in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, and is scheduled to appear in a Johannesburg court Friday for a bail hearing.
Marilyn Ogar, spokeswoman for the Nigeria’s State Security Service, said in a statement Wednesday that Okah flew to Nigeria in March to plan a car bomb attack in Warri, a city in the heart of the Niger Delta. The car bombs exploded March 15 outside a government building during a meeting organized by a newspaper to discuss a government amnesty offered to militants.
Ogar said Okah returned to South Africa a day before the March bombing.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, also known by the acronym MEND, issued a warning to journalists about an hour before the Oct. 1 attacks, telling people to stay away from festivities at Eagle Square in Abuja. It blamed Nigeria’s government for doing nothing to end the unceasing poverty in the delta as the nation receives billions of dollars from oil revenue.
Since the October bombing, MEND has issued statements denying Henry Okah had any role in the attack. Okah, an alleged arms dealer who is said to have brought the arms needed for the insurgency, left Nigeria for Johannesburg after being released from prison in July 2009 while facing treason and gunrunning charges.
Okah has denied being MEND’s leader or being involved with the bombing in Abuja.