Kano schools empty after Nigeria attacks

Empty Evangelical Church school in Kano

An abandoned satchel hangs outside one of the many empty classrooms in an Evangelical Church school in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, where some 185 people were killed in a series of explosions last week.

Hundreds of parents have chosen not to bring in their children.

The leader of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which says it carried out the attacks, has issued a chilling threat that primary and secondary schools may be targeted next - in revenge, he said, for killings at conservative Islamic schools in the north.

Brightly dressed head teacher Bosede Yusuf is determined never to leave town.

She has already received many invitations to join friends in the UK and in mainly Christian parts of southern Nigeria.

"As the head, if I decide to leave, everyone else will leave. That's why I'm still staying around," she said.

She added: "I believe it is only when God directs me to move that I'll move."

'Facade of reasonableness'

Many are now looking to politicians to end the security crisis.

After much deliberation, during which countless more lives have been lost through violent acts by Boko Haram, President Goodluck Jonathan has offered to hold official peace talks with the group for the first time.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan says that Boko Haram "operates without a face"

While politicians talk, Reverend Murtala Mati Dangora tells me people in Kano are fearful that another bombing may come soon.

Some police officers and eyewitnesses in Kano are too afraid to be quoted for fear of retribution. Some residents have already fled the city.

Rev Dangora welcomed the heavy security presence in the town - and the government's offer of talks.

"We are calling on the government to sit down with these people and then ask them what is their problem, what do they want?"

Many analysts believe the government has run out of options in its battle with Boko Haram, who have killed close to 1,000 people in the past two-and-a-half years.

"The strategy of name calling and abusing Boko Haram leaders hasn't worked," political analyst Junaid Muhammad argues.

He explains that there is already a history of bad blood around the negotiating table.

During recent secret talks, compensation promised by the government for the death of former Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf, who controversially died whilst in police custody in 2009, was apparently never honoured.

The government also refused to release suspected gang members held without charge, according to Mr Junaid.

"The real reason for calling talks," Mr Junaid says, "is to present a facade of reasonableness to the international community.

Family tragedy
Paulina Yusuf holds pictures of her sons Paulina Yusuf found the body of one her sons in a toilet

Security analyst Bawa Abdullahi Wase is more optimistic.

He thinks the government is doing the right thing, as long as senior players enter the talks.

He recalls the deal made with the Niger Delta militants in the south who were bought off and offered training to get them to put down their arms.

"The president has to be seen as giving one section of the country the opportunity he afforded to another section of the country," Mr Bawa says.

Buying off Boko Haram would be a bitter pill to swallow for many who have already suffered during their recent spate of attacks across the country.

Sitting on the floor of a relative's room in Kano, looking pale and on the brink of tears, Paulina Yusuf is surrounded by members of her family.

She has endured the worst week of her life since her husband, a policeman, died from a stray bullet years ago.

His death, in the line of duty, led to her family being housed in the police barracks in Kano that were attacked by Boko Haram.

Two of her sons were playing football when they heard the bombs go off.

Boko Haram: Timeline of terror

  • 2002: Founded
  • 2009: Hundreds killed when Maiduguri police stations stormed; leader Mohammed Yusuf captured and killed
  • Dec 2010: Bombed Jos, killing 80 people; blamed for New Year's Eve attack on Abuja barracks
  • Jun-Aug 2011: Bomb attacks on Abuja police HQ and UN building
  • Dec 2011: Multiple bomb attacks on Christmas Day kill dozens
  • Jan 2012: Wave of violence across north-east Nigeria

They ran to find her and the whole family fled in fear when gunshots rang out.

Her 18-year-old hid in a toilet in the barracks, where Mrs Yusuf found him hours later, gunned down.

Her brother found her 20-year-old son at the mortuary when he hadn't turned up two days after the shootings stopped.

Mrs Yusuf says she can't lie down now. Whenever she tries, she says, her blood begins to boil.

As the family sat around as Mrs Yusuf recounted the terrible events just days ago, it was clear the situation in Kano remained precarious for them, as for many others.

No-one is clear what will happen next here, they say, as many like them continue to work out how to get on with their lives while the government continues to search for a solution.

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