As many as 50 Nigerian students at a rural, agricultural college were slaughtered by al-Qaeda linked terrorists on Sunday.
Many of the students were murdered in their sleep.
No group has claimed responsibility but authorities suspect the terrorist group Boko Haram carried out the attack. Boko Haram is dedicated to wiping out all western influences in northern Nigeria and has carried out dozens of attacks on Christian churches in recent years. This is the third school attack in the province this year.
As many as 50 students may have been killed in the attack, which began at about 1 a.m. in rural Gujba, Provost Molima Idi Mato of Yobe State College of Agriculture, told The Associated Press.
“They attacked our students while they were sleeping in their hostels, they opened fire at them,” he said. The extremists also torched classrooms.
Nigeria State Police Commissioner Sanusi Rufai told Reuters that he suspected that the terrorist group Boko Haram was behind the attack, but declined to elaborate.
Boko Haram is aiming to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria and has intensified attacks on civilians in revenge for a Nigerian military offensive against the group, Reuters reports.
Idi Mato said he could not give an exact death toll as security forces still are recovering bodies of students mostly aged between 18 and 22.
The Nigerian military has collected 42 bodies and transported 18 wounded students to Damaturu Specialist Hospital, 25 miles north, said a military intelligence official, who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.
The extremists rode into the college in two double-cabin pickup all-terrain vehicles and on motorcycles, some dressed in Nigerian military camouflage uniforms, a surviving student, Ibrahim Mohammed, told the AP. He said they appeared to know the layout of the college, attacking the four male hostels but avoiding the one hostel reserved for women.
“We ran into the bush, nobody is left in the school now,” Mohammed said.
Almost all those killed were Muslims, as is the college’s student body, said Adamu Usman, a survivor from Gujba who was helping the wounded at the hospital.
Wailing relatives gathered outside the hospital morgue, where rescue workers laid out bloody bodies in an orderly row on the lawn for family members to identify their loved ones.
One body had its fists clenched to the chest in a protective gesture. Another had hands clasped under the chin, as if in prayer. A third had arms raised in surrender.
Provost Idi Mato confirmed the school’s other 1,000 enrolled students have fled the college.
The name Boko Haram translates from the local Hausa language as “Western education is a sin.” Thousands have died in the violence and the government has also been widely accused of committing atrocities against civilians.
Along with al-Shabab in Kenya, the two al-Qaeda linked terrorist groups appear to be getting bolder — and more deadly — in their attacks. At the moment, they seem content to kill people close to home. But given the fanatical hatred both groups feel toward the west, anything is possible in the future. Both groups are receiving assistance from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who the State Department says threatens American interests in the region.
The unholy trinity represents a big challenge to American security from northern Africa to the Gulf. And the governments in question — Yemen, Nigeria, and Kenya — appear to be making little progress in combating them.