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Nigerian Militants Blame State Security for Bombing Deaths

A Nigerian soldier lies on the ground after a small blast was heard in the midst of 50th anniversary celebrations of Nigeria's independence at Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria, 01 Oct 2010

Nigerian militants claiming responsibility for Friday's independence-day bomb blasts blame security services for the deaths of at least 12 people because the group says its warnings were not taken seriously. Nigeria's president says those behind the bombings are using the struggles of the oil-rich Niger Delta to camouflage their goals.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta says it carried out the independence day bombings because Nigeria has nothing to celebrate after 50 years of failure, including the neglect of the people and the environment in the oil-rich delta.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is from the Niger Delta and says Friday's violence has nothing to do with the problems there.

"Nobody can claim to be more Niger Delta than myself. It most definitely has nothing to do with the Niger Delta struggle," he said. "These are terrorists. We know them. We know their sponsors. We are on their trail. And by God's grace, some of them will face the law."

In a statement e-mailed to reporters, Niger Delta militants say they regret what they call "the avoidable loss of lives," saying their hearts go out to the families of those killed who the militant says they know were sympathetic to their cause.

The group blames security services for the deaths because of what it calls an "irresponsible attitude" as the statement says the government was given five days prior notice of the attack.

The group notified reporters about an hour before the blast that it had placed bombs near the site of independence day events.

Nigerian intelligence services spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar says Nigeria was warned by foreign intelligence services before the car bombings. But she says threats linked to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb were general in nature. She says the government acted on that information by tightening security around the independence day ceremonies and preventing casualties from occurring at the parade ground.

Speaking to reporters during a hospital visit to those wounded in the blast, President Jonathan admitted his security services could have done more.

"There were security lapses, definitely," he said.

"Security issues are not discussed openly. But we have to re-examine our security system in order to face modern challenges we have even with our without this incident," answered Mr. Jonathan when asked by a reporter "And what is the government doing about that?"

A former leader of the Niger Delta militant group has been arrested in South Africa. Henry Okah was originally detained in Angola three years ago and transferred to Nigerian custody before he was released last year as part of a Niger Delta amnesty program. He is due in court Monday.