The Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram is suspected in a terrorist attack at a rural college that killed at least 50 students – many of them murdered while sleeping.
Suspected Islamist militants stormed a college in northeastern Nigeria and shot dead around 40 male students, some of them while they slept early on Sunday, witnesses said.
State police commissioner Sanusi Rufai said he suspected Boko Haram was behind the attack but gave no details.
The bodies were brought from the college, which is in Gujba, a rural area 30 miles (50km) south of Damaturu and around 130 miles from Nigerian borders with Cameroon and Niger.
The gunmen, thought to be members of rebel sect Boko Haram, attacked one hostel, took some students outside before killing them and shot others trying to flee, people at the scene told Reuters.
“They started gathering students into groups outside, then they opened fire and killed one group and then moved onto the next group and killed them. It was so terrible,” said one surviving student Idris, who would only give his first name.
“They came with guns around 1 a.m. (2400 GMT) and went directly to the male hostel and opened fire on them … The college is in the bush so the other students were running around helplessly as guns went off and some of them were shot down,” said Ahmed Gujunba, a taxi driver who lives by the college.
Boko Haram, which wants to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, has intensified attacks on civilians in recent weeks in revenge for a military offensive against its insurgency.
Several schools, seen as the focus of Western-style education and culture, have been targeted.
Boko Haram and spin-off Islamist groups like the al Qaeda-linked Ansaru have become the biggest security threat in Africa’s second largest economy and top oil exporter.
Western governments are increasingly worried about the threat posed by Islamist groups across Africa, from Mali and Algeria in the Sahara, to Kenya in the east, where Somalia’s al-Shabaab fighters killed at least 67 people in an attack on a Nairobi shopping mall a week ago.
Bodies were recovered from dormitories, classrooms and outside in the undergrowth on Sunday, a member of staff at the college told Reuters, asking not to be named.
A Reuters witness counted 40 bloody corpses piled on the floor at the main hospital in Yobe state capital Damaturu on Sunday, mostly of young men believed to be students.
Is the rise of al-Shabab and Boko Haram attributable to our emphasis on core al-Qaeda groups in Pakistan and Iraq? Some analysts think that we could have assisted the Kenyans and Nigerians with tamping down these groups before they became as well armed and numerous as they are today if we had looked at Islamist terrorism as a global problem rather than a concentrating on major al-Qaeda affiliates in a few countries.
For the moment, the African terrorist groups appear content to murder people close to home. But as they grow, they may become more ambitious and begin to threaten American interests directly. Assisting African states in dealing with these groups should be on the front burner of our foreign policy agenda.