Terror fear haunts some African soccer fans | Africa | DW | 12.06.2014
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Africa

Terror fear haunts some African soccer fans

Soccer fans are eagerly awaiting the excitement of the FIFA World Cup, but in Nigeria and Kenya the anticipation is tinged with unease. Being a football fan there could expose you to a terrorist attack.

Lamido cinema was closed at the beginning of June. It used to be popular with football fans in Yola, eastern Nigeria. You could watch matches from all over the world on the big screen. Then came the horrifying news from Mubi, further to the north in the Nigerian state of Adamawa, that at least 40 people had been killed in a bomb explosion at a soccer match. The apparent target was fans trying to leave after the final whistle and the attack bore the hallmarks of the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram.

"The situation is bad. With the recent attack people are no longer interested in going to places where a lot of people gather," said Yusuf Saleh, manager of Lamido cinema.

In May, three people were killed in a blast outside a viewing centre in the Nigerian city of Jos showing the European Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

IHS, a London-based firm which supplies market research and intelligence to corporate clients, said there was "a severe risk to screening venues in Adamawa, Borno, and Plateau states and in the capital Abuja."

Nairobi Kenia Terroranschlag Al-Shabaab Einkaufszentrum Westgate Mall 24. Sept

More than 60 people died in the raid on the Westgate shopping mall

Attacks and kidnappings blamed on Boko Have have multiplied in recent months.

Stay safe at home

If you ask soccer fans in northeastern Nigeria how they intend to cope with the threat of being maimed or killed in a terrorist blast, the answer is nearly always the same. "I am addicted to watching football, particularly in viewing centers. But I think with the World Cup around the corner, I have made up my mind to watch my football in my parlour, in my sitting room," said Seguan Ofadeji from the city of Bauchi. "I would prefer watching it in the viewing center, because that is more fun. But now I don't think I will be doing that again," said soccer fan Paul Orode.

In Plateau state, owners of bars favored by football fans have clubbed together in order to do what they can to lessen the threat of attacks. Their spokesman Zakari Mohammed believes they are well prepared.

"It is not actually going to be very easy for every viewing center to have security personnel in charge. But with the vigilantes from the very particular area in which the viewing center is operating, we will hopefully have a peaceful World Cup."

Attack on Kampala restaurant

Even if the insecurity is bad for business - because many will be watching the tournament at home - it does mean that there will be fewer people around, which in turn will make it easier to ensure the safety of those who are present. Mohammed says they are in close contact with the police so it will be possible to react quickly in the event of danger.

The last attack at a viewing center in Africa was in Uganda during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. 70 people were killed in multiple explosions in a restaurant in the capital Kampala during the final. The Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. They said it was intended as a warning for countries that were participating in the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Uganda 2010 Bombenanschlag auf Fußballfans Überlebende

Africa soccer fans were targeted by terrorists during the 2010 FIFA World Cup

Kenya has been taking part in this mission since 2011 and has been the target of several al-Shabab attacks, including the raid on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September 2013 in which at least 67 people were killed. There is the fear that the Kenyan capital could be a target during the FIFA World Cup.

Cyrus Mwangi runs a club in Nairobi. He said their security personnel have had police training and have been taught how terrorists conceal their weapons."Hand grenades can be hidden in their hair," he explained.

Trade in replica football shirts may be booming in Kenya's second largest city Mombasa, but local fans are unsure whether they should venture into a viewing center. "You're not really a real fan if you watch the game alone, you have to be with other people," said one young man. Yet he confessed to being nervous about going to one of the many crowded bars. He is not alone.

A prominent Muslim cleric was killed by unknown assailants in Mombasa on Tuesday (10.06.2014). He was an opponent of extremism and had often urged the government and the police to take action against violent Muslim youths. Mombasa has been hit by several attacks in recent months, believed to be the work of al-Shabab.

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