Abuja - The death toll from a car bomb that exploded on a busy road in Abuja rose to at least 19 overnight, police said Friday from the city that within days hosts an international conference.
The bomb was driven near a checkpoint where traffic built up, located across the road from a busy bus station where a massive explosion on April 14 killed at least 75 people. That blast was claimed by the Boko Haram terrorist network in a video April 19 that threatened further assaults.
The government is deploying 6,000 police to protect the May 7-9 World Economic Forum on Africa, with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as an honored guest, in Abuja, and President Goodluck Jonathan last week assured delegates they would be safe. It attracts world leaders, policymakers, philanthropists and business leaders to discuss Africa's economic growth prospects.
The explosion occurred in a working class suburb just a 15-minute drive from the presidential villa and the hotel venue of the conference.
Police Superintendent Frank Mba told reporters Friday the toll is up to 19 dead with as many wounded being treated in the hospitals. Six cars were burned up in the blast, he said.
Witnesses said a car laden with explosives drove close to the checkpoint and a man jumped out and ran as it blew up. A deafening explosion was followed by smaller ones as other cars caught fire and fuel tanks exploded, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fears for their safety.
The attacks are a major embarrassment that undermine government and military assurances that Boko Haram had been contained in a northeastern corner of the country.
Two unexploded IEDs were found at the scene, according to a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. Islamic militants in Nigeria often time secondary explosions to target rescuers and others drawn to a bombing.