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Bomb blast kills 30 in Nigeria ; Victims gathered for New Year's Eve

A bomb blast tore through a beer garden at a Nigerian army barracks where revelers had gathered to celebrate New Year's Eve, witnesses said, and state-run television reported Friday that 30 people died, though police immediately disputed that.

A local police spokesman said the blast occurred at about 7:30 p.m. Friday in Abuja, the capital of Africa's most populous nation.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion in this oil-rich nation where citizens remain uneasy after bombings at other locations had killed dozens of people several days earlier.

"It's unfortunate that some people planted (a) bomb where people are relaxing because of the new year," Air Marshal Oluseyi Petirin told journalists. "Nobody has been able to give accurate figures (of casualties), but we have rescued some people."

An anchor on the state-run Nigerian Television Authority gave a death toll of 30 to viewers Friday night. The channel did not give an estimate on the number of injured.

Local police spokesman Jimoh Moshood immediately disputed the figure, saying only four people had died and 13 were wounded. Death tolls remain contentious in Nigeria, as politicians often inflate or shrink tolls to suit their aspirations.

Witnesses said the market appeared full at the time of the blast. A local journalist at the scene told the Associated Press that soldiers carried injured people away, with one officer saying he feared there were fatalities.

In the minutes after the explosion, police and soldiers swarmed the area, blocking onlookers from entering the area. Later, an AP journalist saw police carrying out covered bodies and putting them in the back of police vehicles. Officers shouted at each other to keep the bodies covered and hidden from onlookers.

The blasts come days after a similar attack struck a nation that remains uneasily divided between Christians and Muslims. On Christmas Eve, three bombs exploded in the central Nigerian city of Jos, killing dozens of people.

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