The emergency rule imposed on Yobe State appeared to have suffered a setback after gunmen, suspected to be Boko Haram Islamists, struck in a Potiskum secondary school, early yesterday, killing 29 students and a teacher.
Another report said 42 students were killed in the attack while dozens were missing.
Eye witnesses spoke of a gory sight as some of the students in the boarding school were burned alive.
Parents screamed in anguish as they tried to identify the charred and gunshot victims.
Yobe is one of the three states where President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency on May 14 following the insurgency by the Boko Haram sect which claimed hundreds of lives. The two other states are Adamawa and Yobe.
The military, deployed in the wake of the emergency rule, has claimed success regarding control of the three states before yesterday’s assault.
The Joint Task Force (JTF) enforcing the emergency rule said it had killed and arrested hundreds of Boko Haram fighters.
Yesterday’s attack on the Potiskum school came just as unidentified gunmen attacked the Divisional Police Station and a bank in Karim Lamido local government area of Taraba State, killing three policemen.
Students burned alive
Mallam Abdullahi, father of two of the victims of the Potiskum attack, a report said, found the bodies of two of his sons, a 10-year-old shot in the back as he apparently tried to run away, and a 12-year-old shot in the chest.
“That’s it, I’m taking my other boys out of school,” he said as he wept over the two corpses. He said he had three younger children in a nearby school.
“It’s not safe,” he said. “The gunmen are attacking schools and there is no protection for students despite all the soldiers.”
Survivors at the Potiskum General Hospital and its mortuary said the gunmen attacked Government Secondary School in Mamudo village, five kilometres (3 miles) from Potiskum town at about 3 a.m. They killed 29 students and an English teacher, Mohammed Musa, who was shot in the chest, according to another teacher, Ibrahim Abdu.
“We were sleeping when we heard gunshots. When I woke up, someone was pointing a gun at me,” said 15-year-old Musa Hassan. He put his arm up in defence, and suffered a gunshot that blew off all four fingers on his right hand, the one he uses to write with.
He said the gunmen came armed with jerry cans of fuel that they used to torch the school’s administrative block and one of the hostels.
“They burned the children alive,” he said, the horror showing in his wide eyes.
He and teachers at the morgue said dozens of children from the 1,200-student school escaped into the bush but have not been seen since. Some bodies were so charred they could not be identified; many parents did not know if their children survived or died.
“We received 42 dead bodies of students and other staff of Government Secondary School in Mamudo last night. Some of them had gunshot wounds while many of them had burns and ruptured tissues,” Haliru Aliyu of the Potiskum General Hospital was quoted as saying by another report.
“From accounts of teachers and other students who escaped the attack, the gunmen gathered their victims in a hostel and threw explosives and opened fire, leading to the death of 42,” Aliyu said. According to him, security personnel were combing the bushes around the school in search of students believed to have escaped with gunshot wounds.
“So far six students have been found and are now in the hospital being treated for gunshot wounds,” he added.
A local resident who did not want to be named confirmed the attack. “It was a gory sight. People who went to the hospital and saw the bodies shed tears. There were 42 bodies, most of them were students. Some of them had parts of their bodies blown off and badly burnt while others had gunshot wounds,” he said. The resident said the attack was believed to be a reprisal by the Boko Haram Islamists for the killing of 22 sect members during a military raid in the town of Dogon Kuka on Thursday.
Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen, suspected to be bandits, in the early hours of yesterday, attacked the Divisional Police Station and an old generation bank in Karim Lamido Local Government Area of Taraba State.
3 killed in police station, bank raid
Three policemen on duty at the police station, which the assailants first attacked, were shot dead while their colleagues sustained various degrees of injuries and the station was destroyed.
The attackers then proceeded to raid the old generation bank in the town where an unspecified amount of money was carted away.
Eyewitnesses in Jalingo, the state capital, said the attackers came in a large number.
One of them described the gunshots as unprecedented even as most of the residents of the town were kept awake all night.
According to him, some of the residents, who ran out of the town for their dear lives following the sporadic gunshots, were yet to return.
Taraba State Police Command confirmed the incident.
The command public relations officer, PPRO, Joseph Kwaji (ASP), said armed bandits were responsible for the attack adding that the police were on their trail.
He did not however confirm the casualty figure.
Tambuwal condemns massacre
In the meantime, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has described the killing of the students as ignoble, wicked and horrendous.
According to him, no reason can be given to justify such dastardly act.
In a statement in Abuja, yesterday, by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal tasked security agencies to fish out perpetrators of the attack and bring them justice. He said the gains recorded by security agencies in their battle against terror in the country in recent weeks should be built upon in order to protect the citizens at all times. While expressing sympathy with the families of the victims, the Speaker urged Nigerians to be more vigilant and to help security agencies with useful information to hep secure their areas.
Tambuwal called for information that will lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of the assault.
He said the National Assembly will, at all times, give necessary support to ensure that peace and security is restored in all parts of the country.