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18 dead in suicide bomb attack on UN's Nigeria complex

A car laden with explosives rammed through two gates and blew up at the UN offices in Nigeria's capital Abuja yesterday, killing at least 18 people and shattering part of the structure.

A radical Muslim sect blamed for a series of attacks in the country admitted the attack - a major escalation of their sectarian fight against Nigeria's weak central government.

The brazen assault in a neighbourhood surrounded by heavily fortified diplomatic posts represented the first suicide attack to target foreigners in oil-rich Nigeria, where locals already live in fear of the radical Boko Haram sect. The group, which has reported links to al Qaida, wants to implement a strict version of Shariah law in the nation and is vehemently opposed to Western education and culture. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it "an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others".

The brazen attack, carried out as the four-storey UN offices teemed with staff, comes as Africa's most populous nation faces growing homegrown and international terrorism.

Witnesses said a sedan rammed through two separate gates at the UN compound as guards tried to stop the vehicle.

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