Boko Haram Islamist militants kill nine school children in northern Nigeria as punishment for youth gangs working with the army

Deaths at school near Maiduguri are the second attack on students in the area this week

Members of the Boko Haram Islamist militant group have killed at least nine children at a school in northern Nigeria – the second attack on students in the area this week.

A group of gunmen opened fire on the children outside Ansarudeen School, which is on the outskirts of Maiduguri – the capital and largest city in the north Nigerian state of Borno. The children had just finished exams and were dressed in school uniform.

Survivors of the attack said the killings were most likely in response to the emergence of youth-dominated vigilante groups in the area, small squads of whom have reportedly been helping the Nigerian army combat Islamist insurgency in the region.

A spokesman for Boko Haram said the group claimed responsibility for the attack, confirming it was done to punish youngsters for assisting the army.

Ibrahim Mohammed, a student who witnessed the attack, said: “I saw five students sitting the exams killed on the spot… Four others were killed as they were entering the school premises.“

Hospital workers confirmed that the bodies of nine children, still in their uniforms, had been taken to the mortuary in Maiduguri.

On Sunday, a school in Damaturu was attacked by suspected Boko Haram gunmen and 13 people including students and teachers were killed.

Vigilante groups have reportedly been on the rise in the area surrounding Maiduguri after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in north eastern Nigeria last month.

As well as thousands more troops being sent into the area, young men wielding improvised weapons made from metal pipes, gardening tools and machetes have also been seen patrolling the streets and arresting suspected militants.

Although the Nigerian army have said all those arrested by the gangs will be given a fair chance to prove their innocence, there are local concerns that the vigilantes may be used to settle scores by making false arrests for money.

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