Lagos, Nigeria: Islamist militants killed dozens of students in a pre-dawn attack on Tuesday on a north-east Nigerian college, survivors said, setting ablaze a locked hostel and shooting and slitting the throats of those who escaped through windows. Some were burned alive.
Adamu Garba said he and other teachers who ran away through the bush estimate 40 students died in the assault that began about 2am on Tuesday at the college at Buni Yadi, a government co-ed school about 70 kilometres south of Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state.
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Dozens killed in Nigeria school attack
RAW VIDEO: at least 58 students are killed in northern Nigeria, when Islamic militants set fire to a locked dormitory at a school in a pre-dawn attack, and then killed the students who tried to escape through windows.
Soldiers were still gathering corpses so he could not give an exact number of dead, military spokesman Captain Eli Lazarus said.
Mr Garba said the attackers first set fire to the college administrative block, then moved to the hostels, where they locked students in and started firebombing the buildings.
At one hostel, he said, "students were trying to climb out of the windows and they were slaughtered like sheep by the terrorists who slit their throats. Others who ran were gunned down." Students who could not escape were burned alive.
Female students were herded into a classroom and were not hurt. The attackers told the women to read the Koran, go home and find husbands, Yobe state police commissioner Sanusi Rufai said. They then set about killing the male students, burning alive at least eight.
The militant group Boko Haram deliberately targets state educational institutions as part of its Islamist, anti-secular campaign. It was the fourth school assault attributed to the group in less than a year.
The violence has put the government of President Goodluck Jonathan on the defensive and left the army in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, struggling for a strategy after years of failed counterinsurgency efforts.
Much of the Buni Yadi campus was destroyed. "It was a very terrible and gory scene," said Abdulla Bego, a spokesman for the governor of Yobe state, who visited the site on Tuesday afternoon. "When you have a school of that scale burned down completely, it is a very horrible sight. Some patches were still on fire. It was really a very gory scene. We were all outraged."
The death toll could rise, officials said, as some of the students had been seriously injured.
Tuesday's attack brings the toll from attacks blamed on Boko Haram to more than 300 civilians killed in February alone.
It is the first attack reported in Yobe state and the first school attack reported this year by suspected fighters of Boko Haram — the nickname that means Western education is forbidden.
Mr Jonathan told a press conference on Monday night that the Boko Haram attacks were "quite worrisome" but that he was sure "we will get over it".
Thousands of Nigerians have lost family members, houses, businesses, their belongings and livelihoods in the four-year-old rebellion.
And it likely will anger regional officials who say the military is losing its war to halt the Islamist uprising in the north-east of Africa's biggest oil producer. The military has said recent attacks were being perpetrated by militants who escaped a sustained aerial bombardment and ground assaults on forest hideouts along the border with Cameroon.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday condemned the "unspeakable violence and acts of terror" and said the United States was helping Nigerian authorities to develop a comprehensive approach "to combat the threat posed by Boko Haram while protecting civilians and ensuring respect for human rights".
But survivors and local officials claim they get no protection. And refugees who have fled to neighbouring states have said that they are fleeing the extremists as much as the fallout from the military campaign in which soldiers are accused of gross human rights abuses including executions of people suspected of helping Boko Haram.
AP, New York Times