Nigeria to boost school security after deadly attack

Victims' families gather to identify the bodies and visit the wounded in hospital

Authorities in Nigeria say there was no security protection at an agricultural college where up to 50 students were shot dead as they slept on Sunday.

The students were killed by suspected Islamist gunmen in their dormitory in Yobe state, north-eastern Nigeria.

Official Abdullahi Bego told the BBC the government and military would work to increase protection in schools.

Start Quote

When we heard the sound of gun shots, we tried to run to escape for fear of our lives”

End Quote Survivor

North-eastern Nigeria is under a state of emergency amid an Islamist insurgency by the Boko Haram group.

Boko Haram is fighting to overthrow Nigeria's government to create an Islamic state, and has launched a number of attacks on schools.

Schools 'to stay open'

BBC Hausa service editor Mansur Liman says there seems to be some complacency in the Nigerian military after their recent successes in driving militants out of many urban areas in the north-east.

However, the insurgents have previously seized army uniforms and vehicles, which they are able to use to infiltrate supposedly secure areas and carry out attacks, he says.

Boko Haram at-a-glance

  • Founded in 2002
  • Official Arabic name, Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad"
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education
  • Nicknamed Boko Haram, a phrase in the local Hausa language meaning, "Western education is forbidden"
  • Launches military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state across Nigeria
  • Founding leader Mohammed Yusuf killed in same year in police custody
  • Succeeded by Abubakar Shekau
  • Suspected to have split into rival factions in 2012
  • Military claims in August 2013 that Mr Shekau and his second-in-command Momodu Bama have been killed in separate attacks; no independent confirmation

Abdullahi Bego, special advisor to the Yobe state government, told the BBC on Monday that no security forces had been operating in the area when the attack on the College of Agriculture took place.

He acknowledged that security forces are meant to undertake regular patrols of educational institutions.

He said schools in the area would not be closed because that is what the "terrorists" wanted.

"We are committed to providing education to our children in Yobe state and in north-eastern Nigeria," he said.

The state authorities would work with the military to reinforce protection at schools, he added.

A survivor of the attack has told the BBC Hausa service he and at least 200 other students ran away from the college when they heard gunfire.

"We tried to run to escape for fear of our lives. The windows were open so we escaped through them and ran into the bush. We didn't even know where we were."

He said he was chased by residents of a nearby village who mistook him for a thief: "They were scared themselves when they saw us. They thought we were thieves and they in turn chased us with sticks and clubs. We had to continue running deep into the bush."

He said he was traumatised by the attack: "I have seen dead bodies of my friends and people I know very well. It is very depressing and emotional. They were people I was talking to before I went to bed."

Casualty figures from the attack vary, but a local politician told the BBC that around 50 students had been killed.

The Nigerian military said soldiers had collected 42 bodies and taken 18 wounded students to a hospital in Yobe's state capital, Damaturu.

Footage shot by the Associated Press shows the bodies of at least 23 young men lined up on the floor of what appears to be a makeshift mortuary in the town.

About 1,000 students had fled the campus in the wake of the attack, according to college provost Molima Idi Mato.

The gunmen also set fire to classrooms, a military spokesman in Yobe state, Lazarus Eli, told Agence France-Presse.

Map

The college is in the rural Gujba district.

In May, President Goodluck Jonathan ordered an operation against Boko Haram, and a state of emergency was declared for the north-east on 14 May.

Many of the Islamist militants left their bases in the north-east and violence initially fell, but revenge attacks quickly followed.

In June, Boko Haram carried out two attacks on schools in the region.

At least nine children were killed in a school on the outskirts of Maiduguri, while 13 students and teachers were killed in a school in Damaturu.

In July in the village of Mamudo in Yobe state, Islamist militants attacked a school's dormitories with guns and explosives, killing at least 42 people, mostly students.

Boko Haram regards schools as a symbol of Western culture. The group's name translates as "Western education is forbidden".

Boko Haram is led by Abubakar Shekau. The Nigerian military said in August that it might have killed him in a shoot-out.

However, a video released last week purportedly showed him alive.

Other previous reports of his death later proved to be unfounded.

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