Nigeria school assembly bombing kills at least 48: ‘I was blown off my feet. People started screaming. I saw blood’

Suicide attack in Nigerian school wounds over 70 more

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The Independent Online

The children were preparing for morning assembly at the Government Science Secondary School. Moving among them, however, was a suicide bomber.

When the explosion came, at around 7.30am, the bodies of the gathered students, estimated to have been between 11 and 18 years old, were mutilated, and dozens were instantly killed. Many more were wounded and last night being treated in hospital.

Outside the school, the Nigerian soldiers sent to secure the scene in Potiskum, the largest commercial town in Yobe state in Nigeria’s north-east, were reported to have been pelted with rocks. In a region where Boko Haram’s murderous bid to establish an Islamic “caliphate” has been keenly felt, this was another in a long line of atrocities.

The militant group’s control of Nigeria’s north now appears to be increasing, analysts say, and the group, which preaches against Western education, has struck on numerous occasions since a ceasefire was supposed to have been agreed with the government of President Goodluck Jonathan.

 

In the latest attack on Monday, at least 48 people were killed and 79 wounded by the suicide bomber described by authorities as being “dressed as a student”. “It was a devastating attack,” said the police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu. “Dozens of children lost their lives and many more were injured.”

“All schools in the town have been closed now as parents have gone to pick up their children,” Ibrahim Ahmed, a resident of Potiskum, told Punch, a Nigerian daily. “There is wailing everywhere especially around the school.”

“I counted the bodies, mostly students and a few teachers,” a nurse at Potiskum General Hospital, which has treated patients injured in previous Boko Haram attacks, told Reuters.

Aliyu Abubakar, a Potiskum resident, added that he heard the explosion when he was dropping off his two sons at a nearby Islamic college. “One of my sons fell down, I came out dragged him in and we drove off back home,” he said.

Some survivors said the bomber appeared to have had the explosives hidden in a rucksack popular with students at the school. “We were waiting for the principal to address us when we heard a deafening sound and I was blown off my feet, people started screaming and running, I saw blood all over my body,” said 17-year-old student Musa Ibrahim Yahaya.

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Garba Alhaji, father of one of the wounded students, said there was no proper security at the school. “I strongly blame the Yobe state government for not fencing the college,” he said, adding that just three months ago a bomb was discovered in the school.

In July last year, all schools were ordered to close in Yobe state after extremists entered a government secondary school in the town of Mamudo, near Potiskum, shooting dead 29 students and a teacher before setting the school ablaze. “It’s not safe,” said one parent at the time. “The gunmen are attacking schools and there is no protection for students, despite all the soldiers.”

Before that, in the act that thrust Boko Haram into the international spotlight, the militant group abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from a school in neighbouring Borno state in April. It has since been claimed that the girls have converted to Islam and been “married off”.

“The killing of scores of young men and boys at a secondary school assembly bears the brutal hallmarks of Boko Haram, which has targeted schools and students in Borno and Yobe state since early 2012,” said Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, on Monday. “[The] attack was calculated by the perpetrators to instil fear, and yet another sickening attempt to discourage young Nigerians from attending school in the first place. In Yobe State, only one in four children attend school. Nigerian authorities should take immediate measures to protect schools and other residents in the north-east from further attacks.”

The Nigerian government has maintained it is in talks with the militant group over a supposed ceasefire, said to have been agreed in Chad on 17 October. But a day before the latest bombing, on Sunday, Boko Haram released a new video, said to show the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau preaching to residents of a captured town.

“There is no truce between me and Nigerian tyrants,” Shekau was reported by the AFP to have said.

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