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Deadly Car Bomb Targets UN in Nigerian Capital

Rescue workers are seen after a bomb blast that ripped through the United Nations offices in the Nigerian capital of Abuja August 26, 2011.

A car bombing in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, has leveled part of a U.N. building and killed at least 18 people.

Witnesses say the explosion occurred late Friday morning when a car rammed through two gates and into the U.N. compound.

Former VOA employee Josephine Kamara dropped her husband off for work at the U.N. building shortly before the blast. She described the scene in an interview with VOA.

"All the way up to the top floor, there are shattered windows. There is debris. There are mangled iron rods all over the place. I see a lot of the U.N. staff's family members are standing out here. Also, it looks like the entire Abuja police force has actually come to the U.N. building. They are trying to get casualties out. Those that are badly hurt have been taken to the hospital."

Video footage from the scene

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has condemned the attack.

"Around 11 a.m. this morning local time, the UN house in the Nigeria capital Abuja was struck by a car bomb. These buildings house 26 humanitarian and development agencies of the UN family. This was an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others," he said. "We condemn this terrible act utterly. We do not yet have precise casualty figures, but they are likely to be considerable. A number of people are dead, many more are wounded. Nigerian and international search teams have mobilized and are moving wounded to hospitals and providing emergency aid."

The U.N. chief said he could not comment at the time as to who was behind the attack or what motivated it.

"Let me say it clearly: these acts of terrorism are unacceptable. They will not deter us from our vital work for the people of Nigeria and the world," he added. "This outrageous and shocking attack is evidence that the U.N. premises are increasingly being viewed as soft targets by extremist elements around the world."

In a written statement, President Goodluck Jonathan called the attack "barbaric, senseless and cowardly" and said his government remains committed to fighting terrorism.

[After the attack, a spokesman for Nigeria's radical Islamic sect Boko Harama telephoned a correspondent for VOA's Hausa language service in Nigeria, claiming his group carried out the bombing. He also warned, "this is just the beginning."

The spokesman said the bombing was in response to the military's increased presence in northeastern Borno state, where Boko Haram is very active.]

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a car bombing attack at police headquarters in the capital in June and has been blamed for a series of assassinations and bombings in the country's northeast this year.

The group's name in the Hausa language means "Western education is a sin." It seeks to undermine state authority and calls for the stricter application of sharia Islamic law in Nigeria.

Boko Haram has professed links to al-Qaida terrorists in Somalia.

Western security officials have also expressed concern that the group may have ties to the terror group's northern Africa branch, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.