Suspected Islamic militants killed 43 students in a pre-dawn attack Tuesday on a northeast Nigerian college, survivors said.
The terrorists, thought to be from Boko Haram, set a locked hostel on fire, before shooting and slitting the throats of those who tried to climb out the 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 around 2 a.m. Tuesday at the Federal Government College at Buni Yadi.
It is a co-ed school about 45 miles south of Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, and difficult to communicate with because extremists last year destroyed the cell phone tower there.
Garba, who teaches at a secondary school attached to the college, said the attackers first set ablaze 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.’
He said students who could not escape were burned alive.
The attackers also reportedly hurled explosives into student residential buildings, sprayed gunfire into rooms and hacked a number students to death.
A senior medical source at the Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital in Yobe’s capital Damaturu said the gunmen only targeted male students and that female students were ‘spared’.
‘So far, 43 bodies have been brought (from the college) and are lying at the morgue,’ said the source, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to discuss death tolls.
Damaturu resident Babagoni Musa told AFP that four ambulances carrying dead bodies drove past his shop, which falls on the road from Buni Yadi.
‘They had tree branches on them which is a sign used here to signify a corpse is in a vehicle,’ he said.
People whose relatives were studying at the college had surrounded the morgue and were desperately seeking information about those killed, forcing the military to take control of the building to restore calm, the hospital source said.
Yobe is one of three northeastern states which was placed under emergency rule in May last year when the military launched a massive operation to crush the Boko Haram uprising.
At least 40 students were killed in September at an agriculture training college in Yobe after Boko Haram gunmen stormed a series of dorms in the middle of the night and sprayed gunfire on sleeping students.
Tuesday’s attack brings the toll from killings blamed on Boko Haram to more than 300 this month alone.
It is the first reported in Yobe state and the first school attack reported this year by suspected fighters of the terrorist network of Boko Haram–the nickname that means Western education is forbidden.
President Goodluck Jonathan told a news conference 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 4-year-old rebellion.
And it likely will anger regional officials who charge the military is losing its war to halt the Islamic uprising in the northeast of Africa’s biggest oil producer.
The military has said recent attacks are being perpetrated by militants who have escaped a sustained aerial bombardment and ground assaults on forest hideouts along the border with Cameroon.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday condemned the ‘unspeakable violence and acts of terror’ and said the United States is 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 charge they get no protection. And refugees who have fled to neighboring states have said that they are fleeing the extremists as much as the fallout from a military campaign in which soldiers are accused of gross human rights abuses including executions of people suspected of helping Boko Haram.
‘Everybody is living in fear,’ local government chairman Maina Ularamu told AP after Izghe village was attacked twice in a week this month–with militants first killing 106 and burning hundreds of thatched huts, then returning to kill another three people and setting ablaze what little remained of the settlement in neighboring Adamawa state.
‘There is no protection. We cannot predict where and when they are going to attack. People can’t sleep with their eyes closed,’ Ularamu said.