US diplomats in Nigeria, at the weekend, claimed that “groups associated with terrorism” could be planning to attack a hotel in Lagos, in a travel note to citizens warning of security risks.
“As of late April, groups associated with terrorism allegedly planned to mount an unspecified attack against the Sheraton Hotel, in Nigeria, near the city of Lagos,” the US Consulate General in Lagos said in an advisory.
“There was no further information regarding which of the two Sheraton Hotels in Lagos was the possible target, or if both of the Sheraton Hotels are possible targets.
“There is no further information regarding the timing or method of attack. US citizens are cautioned to avoid these hotels at this time.”
The warning came the day after a car bomb exploded in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, killing 19 people and wounding scores more, just yards (metres) from a bus station where a previous bombing on April 14 killed at least 75. Boko Haram claimed the April 14 attack and both bombings have raised fears about a possible change in tactics and targets by the Islamist militants, whose increasingly deadly, five-year insurgency has largely been confined to the north.
Concern has mounted that the violence could spread to other parts of the country.
A hotel attack by Islamist extremists would not be unprecedented.
Sheraton has two hotels in Lagos: the Sheraton Hotel Lagos in the Ikeja area near the international airport and the Four Points by Sheraton.
The latter is situated on Victoria Island off the expressway to Lekki, both of which are home to many wealthier Nigerians and expatriates.
The US travel advisory said the security situation in Nigeria remained “fluid and unpredictable”, warning its citizens to stay away from all travels to Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states which have borne the brunt of the violence.
Meanwhile, the management of Sheraton Hotels has assured of adequate security following the the warning by American embassy.
The spokesperson for Starwood, owners of Sheraton Hotels in Nigeria, Nanji Tyem, said all their hotels were on high alert and operating with heightened security measures. She noted that the action was mere precautionary at this time as they were working with the security agencies.
In a related development, the US Secretary of State John Kerry has vowed that Washington will do “everything possible” to help Nigeria deal with the armed group Boko Haram, following the kidnapping of scores of schoolgirls.
“Let me be clear. The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime,” Kerry said in a policy speech in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, yesterday.
“We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and hold the perpetrators to justice. That is our responsibility and the world’s responsibility,” Kerry said.
The US, he said, was “working to strengthen Nigeria’s institutions and its military to combat Boko Haram’s campaign of terror and violence”.
The schoolgirls were abducted by gunmen from the Chibok Government Girls’ Secondary School school in Nigeria’s Borno state, penultimate Tuesday.
Nigerian police on Friday said Boko Haram was holding 223 girls of the 276 seized from the school
The girls’ abduction has triggered global outrage and prompted protests in a number of Nigerian cities, as desperate parents call on the government to secure their release. More than 200 people also held a rally, yesterday, in front of Washington’s Lincoln Memorial to bring attention to the girls’ plight.[Vanguard]