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Around 50 students and teachers were found dead at a high school in northern Nigeria on Monday after a suspected Boko Haram suicide bomber, disguised as a student, infiltrated an assembly. The suicide bomber carried the explosives in a backpack to Government Science Secondary School, causing one of the bloodiest attacks recently in the town of Potiskum in Yobe State.
No one came forward to claim responsibility for the attack, although fingers point to the Boko Haram, since the attack identifies with their modus operandi and recent attacks in the region. Government forces rushed to the school but were not able to secure the scene, since angry residents threw stones in protest at their inability to control Boko Haram. The local residents accused the soldiers of opening fire. Less than a week ago, a similar bomb blast killed 30 people in the town of Potiskum. Boko Haram has been try to topple the Nigerian government for years.
Witnesses to the blast on Monday said that the site was spattered with the remains of children aged between 11 and 20; this was confirmed by an unidentified morgue attendant. In addition to the 50 that were reported dead, an additional 79 students were injured and rushed to the local hospital. Nurses at the overcrowded Potiskum General Hospital had to treat the wounded, who were packed two to a bed. A nurse at the hospital confirmed that, besides the children, a few teachers were also reported dead. For Mariam Ibrahim, a teacher at the school, said the bomb detonated just as they arrived for the assembly. Local Potiskum resident and father of two, Aliyu Abubakar, was dropping his children off at the Islamic college nearby the school on Monday morning. A well-timed escaped saved their lives, as the father instinctively grabbed his children – one of whom fell down – and drove home to safety.
Since Nigerian authorities announced a ceasefire last month, the Boko Haram have increased the cruelty and intensity of their attacks, openly defying the government that is yet to rescue the girls kidnapped by the terror group in April. A top government official announced a ceasefire, while another discussed a deal outlining the release of the girls; the fate of whom is subject to international criticism. In a videotaped response, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, dismissed the idea of a ceasefire, stating that the girls had converted to Islam and had been married off.
Although the Nigerian police found 47 dead at the blast site, morgue officials reported 48, with chances of an increase in the official death toll. The Boko Haram, whose title means “Western Education is Sin,” have kidnapped at least 500 girls and women since 2009, according to recent reports by Human Rights Watch. The HRW also discussed abuses of rape, death threats, forced marriage and forced servitude by Shekhau, who orchestrates most of these attacks and refers to the women as slaves. These heinous attacks, involving the abducting and killing of thousands of school children by Boko Haram and attempts to establish an Islamist state in Africa’s leading oil producing country, is seen as a threat to Nigeria – a nation still facing considerable challenges with national security.
By Rathan Paul Harshavardan
Photo by Diariocritico de Venezuela – Flickr License