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article imageNigeria: Boko Haram militants massacre boarding school children

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jul 6, 2013 in World
Maiduguri - Boko Haram militants attacked a boarding school in Potiskum, northeast Nigeria, at about 3 a.m. Saturday, killing 29 children and one teacher. According to survivors, some of the victims were burned alive while others were shot as they tried to escape.
Pokistum is a town in Yobe, one of the three states of northeast Nigeria in which the federal authorities declared a state of emergency.
Eyewitnesses reported scenes of distraught parents screaming in anguish as they arrived at the school to identify the bodies of their children, some of which were charred beyond recognition while others had gunshot wounds.
AP reports the case of a farmer Malam Abdulahi, who identified the bodies of his two sons, one a ten-year-old shot in the back, and the other a 12-year-old with a gunshot wound in the chest.
Weeping over the corpses of his sons, he told AP: "That's it, I'm taking my other boys out of school. It's not safe. The gunmen are attacking schools and there is no protection for students despite all the soldiers."
The farmer said he has three even younger children at a nearby school.
Survivors who were receiving treatment at the Potiskum General Hospital told reporters that gunmen arrived at the Government Secondary School in Mamudo village, five kilometers from Potiskum town at about 3 a.m. in the morning, on Saturday.
Musa Hassan, 15, recounted his experience: "We were sleeping when we heard gunshots. When I woke up, someone was pointing a gun at me."
As the gun went off, he raised his arms instinctively in self-defense. A bullet hit him in the right hand. He lost four fingers but escaped with this life.
A teacher, Ibrahiam Abdul, said one of the victims was Mohammed Musa, an English teacher, who was shot in the chest.
According to Hassan, the men carried "jerry cans" of gasoline which they used to set the school administrative building and the students' main hostels on fire.
The traumatized boy said: "They burned the children alive."
Survivors at the Potiskum Hospital said several children at the school of about 1,200 escaped and disappeared into the bush and have not bee seen, causing anguish for parents unable to confirm whether their children had escaped because some of the corpses were charred beyond recognition.
Reuters reports that Bala Husseini, a resident of Potiskum, and father of two children, said: "We are really terrified... Everyone fear these school attacks are going to continue and even spread to other towns."
Reuters reports that in a separate incident hundreds of miles away in the town of Karim Lamido in Taraba state, Islamist gunmen opened fire on a police station and a bank, killing three police officers. Police sources said the gunmen blew up the bank's vault with dynamite and escaped with an undisclosed sum of money.
The latest attack is part of a new phase in Nigeria's bloody conflict with Boko Haram insurgents in the arid northeastern region of the country. Digital Journal reported that the militant Islamic sect recently declared that it was launching a war against youths in Borno and Yobe states (see map below) after media reports that some youths in the state formed vigilante groups assisting Nigerian forces to identify and arrest insurgents in their communities.
Northeast Nigeria
Northeast Nigeria
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According to Digital Journal, a spokesman for Boko Haram, Abu Zinnira, said in a statement that "the group has now added youth in Borno and Yobe to its list of targets and will respond to arrests of its members by the youth vigilantes."
The Boko Haramm statement said: "We have established that the youth in Borno and Yobe states are now against our course. They have connived with security operatives and are actively supporting the government of Nigeria in its war against us. We have also resolved to fight back."
Some leaders of the youth groups said they were not intimidated by Boko Haram's threat and that they were ready to fight against the group. A representative of the youths, speaking to reporters, said: "We are tired of [Boko Haram] and we want to put an end to it. Since the soldiers don't really know who the Boko Haram members are, then we who live with them and know them have no option than to help fish them out."
Another member of the group said: "We are into this to salvage our people from the Boko Haram who had killed our people, security operatives and destroyed our economy; we are not afraid of them because we are doing a just cause and God is by our side."
Although the Nigerian authorities commended the youths, observers expressed concern about the security implications of the publicity the vigilantes received in the national media, Digital Journal reported.
Boko Haram launched its first attack in fulfillment of its threat in mid-June when gunmen opened fire on school children at the Ansarudeen Private School, Maiduguri, at about 3 p.m., firing indiscriminately at students taking their final exams and killing nine.
An eyewitness, Ibrahim Mohammed, said: "I saw five students sitting for the exams killed on the spot. Four others were killed as they were entering the school premises."
Gunmen also killed seven school children and two teachers at a school in Damaturu, in Yobe State.
In a third attack, Boko Haram gunmen executed 13 fishermen on the river bank in Alau, about 20 kilometers outside Maiduguri. According to a survivor: "I was lucky to be left out because I am not a resident of Gwange or Hausari where the Civilian-JTF (the youth vigilante) came from."
Another witness, Inuwa Umoru, a native of Bulumkutu, a suburb of Maiduguri, said: "We were busy fishing at Alau River when suddenly a gang of gunmen appeared from nowhere, rounded us up and asked all those who are residents of Hausari and Gwange to fall on one side. After sorting us out, they said, 'Your children brought this fate upon you; they are busy catching our members and handing them to soldiers to be killed.'... They then shot them dead, and asked the remaining of us to run for our lives and take the message to the youth vigilante."
The recent developments point to the ineffectiveness of conventional tactics of warfare against terrorists groups employing guerrilla tactics. The Nigerian authorities recently declared a state of emergency and launched a military offensive against the militants in their northeastern strongholds using fighter jets and helicopter gunships.
In spite of the fact that the army has claimed success, the militants have responded to the onslaught by dispersing over an area of about 155,00 square kilometers, taking refuge in the rocky mountainous region of Adamawa along Nigeria's border with Cameroon from where they launch attacks on schools while taking advantage of the porous international border with Cameroon to withdraw when Nigerian forces pursue them.
Critics of the Nigerian government maintain that there is ultimately no military solution to the Boko Haram problem, being partly a problem arising from decades of alienation and exploitation of the northern masses by a feudalistic northern oligarchy that neglected human development in the entire northern region relative to the south and allowed the vast majority of its youthful population to sink into destitute poverty, illiteracy and hopelessness although they controlled political power and crude oil wealth of country at the federal center for decades.
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