LAGOS, Nigeria – A large amount of bomb-making equipment has been found in a restive city in central Nigeria, raising concerns of election-related violence just weeks ahead of national polls, authorities said Wednesday.
Brig. Gen. Hassan Umaru said the materials were found Tuesday in a house in a residential neighborhood in the city of Jos.
Materials included lab equipment, a timer, an instructional manual on bomb-making, and dozens of detonators. Security experts say that only one detonator is required to make a bomb in most cases and their number suggests that the suspects intended to build multiple devices.
Plateau state police spokesman Abdurrahman Akano declined to comment on the material, pending a report from the police's anti-bomb squad.
Police arrested three suspects in connection with the discovery, which comes two weeks after soldiers stopped trucks loaded with weapons and explosives heading for Jos. Authorities said they carried more than 33,000 pounds (15,000 kilograms) of ammunition along with explosive material, detonators and other equipment used to make bombs.
"We can't leave any room for these items to be used or there will be serious chaos," Umaru said, adding that the ammunition was being brought into the city by people "who want to cause confusion" ahead of April polls. Nigerians will vote for a new president on April 9 and new governors on April 16.
Election violence has already started in the deeply divided city of Jos. An Associated Press reporter counted four dead bodies and four wounded people at a mosque after violence broke out Monday at an opposition party rally in Jos. The bodies were taken to the Jos Central Mosque for burial according to Islamic rites.
The Congress for Progressive Change accused police of causing the deaths by firing on attendees. Police denied that charge and said party supporters came armed with machetes and homemade petro-bombs.
Jos is the epicenter of religious violence in Nigeria's "middle belt" where the country's predominantly Muslim north meets a mostly Christian south. Attackers in the region, however, had not been known to use industrial bombs until a few months ago.
"The use of explosive devices is relatively new in the (state) but the December bombings brought in a new dimension in this regard," Umaru said after multiple Christmas Eve bombings in Jos left at least 32 dead last year.
Two bombs went off near a large market where people were doing last-minute Christmas shopping. A third hit a mainly Christian area of Jos, while the fourth was near a road that leads to the city's main mosque.
Violence in Jos, though fractured across religious lines, often has more to do with local politics, economics and rights to grazing lands. The government of Plateau state, where Jos is the capital, is controlled by Christian politicians who have blocked Muslims from being legally recognized as citizens. That has locked many out of prized government jobs in a region where the tourism industry and tin mining have collapsed in the last decades.
Associated Press writer Ahmed Saka contributed to this report from Jos, Nigeria.