Suspected Islamic militants killed 29 students in a pre-dawn attack Tuesday on a northeast Nigerian school, survivors said, setting ablaze a locked dormitory and shooting and slitting the throats of those who escaped through windows. Some were burned alive.
Soldiers guarding a checkpoint near the government school were mysteriously withdrawn hours before the attack, said the spokesman for the governor of Yobe state.
Female students were spared in the attack, said spokesman Abdullahi Bego. The attackers went to the female dormitories and told the young women to go home, get married and abandon the Western education they said is anathema to Islam, he said. He was relating to The Associated Press what survivors and community leaders told Gov. Ibrahim Gaidam when he visited the now-deserted and destroyed Federal Government College at Buni Yadi, a secondary school 45 miles south of the state capital, Damaturu.
The militants locked the door of one dormitory where male students were sleeping and then set it ablaze, slitting the throats of those who tried to clamber out of windows and gunning down those who ran away, said teacher Adamu Garba.
Some students were burned alive in the attack that began around 2 a.m., he said.
Bego said the entire complex of the relatively new school had been burned out by firebombs — six dormitories, the administrative building, staff quarters, classrooms, a clinic and the kitchen.
The governor would be asking questions about why the school apparently was left unprotected, he said.
"The community complained to the governor that yesterday the military were withdrawn and then the attack happened," he said. A group of about eight soldiers manned the checkpoint when an AP reporter visited recently, and the nearest military base was a unit of about 30 soldiers in Buni Gari town, 1.2 miles away.
But soldiers from Damaturu did not arrive until noon, hours after the attackers had finished their work and taken off, according to community leaders who said they buried the bodies of 29 victims. Most appeared to be between 15 and 20 years old, Bego said.
Military spokesman Eli Lazarus had confirmed the attack but said he could not give an exact death toll because soldiers still were gathering corpses. He could not immediately be reached to comment on charges about the abandoned roadblock.
Nigeria's military has reported arresting several soldiers accused of aiding and passing information to extremists of the terrorist network of Boko Haram — the nickname means "Western education is forbidden." A senator also has been accused of similar charges.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday night dismissed charges the military is losing the war to halt the 4-year-old Islamic uprising in the northeast of Africa's biggest oil producer.
Written By: Adamu Adamu and Michelle Faul
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