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World

Nigerians head out to vote despite deadly bomb blast

A landmark poll opened in Nigeria a day after a deadly explosion cast a pall over the nation's ability to ensure fair and free elections. Delayed twice already, the vote is seen as a litmus test for democracy in Nigeria.

Voters show their IDs

In recent weeks have seen several bomb attacks in Nigeria

Lines formed at polling booths in Nigeria on Saturday, hours after a deadly bomb blast threatened to mar the proceedings.

"We want to show the rest of the world we are ready for democracy, Mukaila Odukoya, a 45-year-old trader in Lagos told the Reuters news agency.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, has failed to hold a fair and orderly vote since military rule ended in the country 12 years ago. The latest round of elections got off to an inauspicious start when it was postponed because of administrative errors.

A line of voters wait their turn in Lagos

Queues formed outside polling stations

Blast kills 10 people

In addition, nearly 100 people have been reported dead in pre-election violence, including at least 10 who were killed in a bomb attack late on Friday.

At least 25 people were also injured in the attack at a polling station in Suleja, about 28 miles (45 kilometers) from the capital, Abuja. Among those killed were members of a youth service group engaged in pre-election preparations.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon called the attack "heinous" and ordered the nation's security agencies to take immediate action. Police did not say who was behind the attack.

Police at a polling station in Lagos

Police have stepped up security at polling booths

Under procedures to try to stop cheating, up to 73 million voters had to register hours ahead of when the poll actually opened.

Mired in violence

Friday's blast was the latest in a wave of bomb explosions to rock Nigeria in the months ahead of April's general elections.

Another blast went off Thursday night in the northern state of Kaduna, and in total Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 85 people had been killed since November in election-related violence.

Saturday's parliamentary polls are to be followed by the presidential vote on April 16.

Author: Sarah Harman, Joanna Impey (AFP, Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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