Militants Attack School in Nigeria, Killing Students and a Teacher

New York Times, July 5, 2013

POTISKUM, Nigeria — Islamic militants attacked a boarding school before dawn on Saturday, dousing a dormitory in fuel and lighting it ablaze as students slept, survivors said. At least 30 people were killed in the deadliest attack yet on schools in Nigeria’s embattled northeast.

Survivors at the Potiskum General Hospital said gunmen attacked Government Secondary School in the village of Mamudo, three miles from the town of Potiskum, around 3 a.m. on Saturday.

The authorities blamed Boko Haram, a radical group whose name means “Western education is sacrilege.”

The gunmen killed 29 students and an English teacher, Mohammed Musa, who was shot in the chest, according to another teacher, Ibrahim Abdu.

“We were sleeping when we heard gunshots,” said Musa Hassan, 15. “When I woke up, someone was pointing a gun at me.”

He put his arm up in defense and was shot, losing four fingers on his right hand, the one he writes with.

He said the gunmen carried jerrycans of fuel that they used to burn the school’s administrative block and one of the hostels.

“They burned the children alive,” he said.

He and teachers at the morgue said dozens of children from the 1,200-student school escaped into the bush but had not been seen since.

Some bodies were so charred they could not be identified.

A farmer, Malam Abdullahi, found the bodies of two of his sons, a 10-year-old shot in the back as he apparently tried to run away and a 12-year-old shot in the chest.

“That’s it, I’m taking my other boys out of school,” he said as he wept over the two corpses. He said he had three younger children in a nearby school.

“It’s not safe,” he said. “The gunmen are attacking schools, and there is no protection for students despite all the soldiers.”

Scores of schools have been burned down in the last year in northeast Nigeria.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on May 14, and he sent thousands of troops to halt the insurgency, acknowledging that militants had taken control of some towns and villages.

The military has claimed success in regaining control of the area: the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. But the area covers about 60,000 square miles, or one-sixth of the country.

Soldiers say they have killed and arrested hundreds of fighters.