On Monday, a suicide bomber killed nearly fifty students in a school in northeastern Nigeria. The attack, which has been blamed on Boko Haram, is the latest in a series of atrocities against schoolchildren in the state of Yobe and is one of the deadliest attacks against schools teaching a so-called Western curriculum.
During the early morning hours, a suicide bomber targeted students at the Government Comprehensive Senior Science Secondary School in Potiskum. The attack occurred at 7:50 AM (0650 GMT) as students were waiting to hear the principal’s daily address. National police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu confirmed the incident, disclosing that at least 48 students, all believed to be in their teens, were killed while 79 others were injured. According to survivors, some 2,000 students had gathered for Monday morning’s weekly assembly. The suicide bomber was wearing a school uniform and entered the school unnoticed. Officials believe that the explosives were hidden in a type of rucksack that is popular with students. Although investigators have released minimal details about the bomber, months ago, Nigeria’s military reported finding a bomb factory in the northern city of Kano, where explosives were being sewn into rucksacks. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, however Boko Haram is believed responsible.
Frustration with the government has grown high in recent weeks, as Boko Haram has increased its tempo of attacks in the wake of an October 17 announcement by the government, which claimed to have brokered a cease-fire. Boko Haram’s leader has denied these negotiations, stating that no truce has been reached. On the ground sources reported Monday that angry locals had blocked access to the school and an adjoining hospital, preventing security forces from getting close to the site of the explosion. Family members of wounded students reported Monday that the school did not have proper security, with one local disclosing that three months ago, an anti-bomb squad was called in after officials discovered a bomb at the school. While the federal government of President Goodluck Jonathan, who recently announced that he will run for re-election in February 2015, has promised more security for schools located in northeastern Nigeria, Monday’s attack has shown that militants operating in the region continue to have relative easy access to schools in the area and are able to disguise themselves as students and enter schools without being approached by officials.
Monday’s attack came a day after the release of a new Boko Haram video, in which the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, again rejected the Nigerian government’s claims of a ceasefire and peace talks. It also comes a week after a suicide bomb attack in the same city killed thirty people a week ago when suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked a religious procession of moderate Muslims.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has carried out numerous attacks targeting schools that teach a so-called Western curriculum. In February, gunmen killed at least 40 students after throwing explosives into the dormitory of a government boarding school in Buni Yadi, also in Yobe state. In July 2013, 42 students were killed when Boko Haram stormed dormitories in a gun and bomb attack on a government boarding school in the village of Mamudo, near Potiskum.
Police and residents reported Tuesday that an explosion ripped through a football viewing centre in Damaturu, northern Nigeria, as fans were gathering to watch a World Cup game.
The blast, which occurred at the Crossfire venue, in the Nayi-Nawa area of the state capital of Yobe, occurred shortly after the tournament began at 8:00 PM (1900 GMT). Unconfirmed reports have indicated that a suicide bomber has killed at least twenty-one people and wounded twenty-seven. Sanusi Ruf’ai, police commissioner for Yobe state, confirmed the attack, stating “there was an explosion outside a soccer viewing center here in Damaturu at around 8:15 PM….Our men have deployed to the scene but it’s too early for us to give details.” On the ground sources have reported that the area has been cordoned off and that police and soldiers are investigating, while eyewitnesses have indicated that the suicide bomber, who was in a tricycle taxi, detonated explosives as people were watching the match. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, suspicions have fallen on Boko Haram, as the militant group has previously targeted big screen venues showing soccer matches.
The latest blast comes after at least two Nigerian states banned viewing centers on security grounds following previous similar attacks, which have been blamed on Boko Haram militants. Last week, authorities in Adamawa state closed viewing centers, where large crowds gather to watch the matches on large screens. The central state of Plateau followed suit days later. The decision by authorities to close the viewing centers is in response to repeated threats by the militant group and a blast that occurred earlier this month. A bomb went off after a football match in the town of Mubi in Adamawa state. The incident killed at least forty people. In May, three people were killed in a blast outside a viewing center that was showing the European Champions League final in the city of Jos, the capital of Plateau state, while in April, suspected Boko Haram gunmen stormed a packed venue in Potiskum, in northeastern Yobe state, shooting dead two people as they watched the Champions League quarter-final matches.
Boko haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau has previously preached against football and has threated to carry out attacks during this year’s World Cup football tournament. In several video clips, he described football and music as a Western ploy to distract Muslims from their religion. While football is Nigeria’s national sport, and has many followers, many residents living in the northern regions of the country have indicated that they will watch the World Cup at home because of fears of Boko Haram attacks.
Similar fears have also put a number of east African nations on high alert amidst fears that Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked-al-Shabaab will carryout similar attacks during football screenings.
Earlier this week, officials in Britain released warnings to citizens in several east African nations, including Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, warning of the threat of terrorist attacks at public screenings of the World Cup games. A statement released by Britain’s Foreign Office indicated “previous terrorist attacks in the region have targeted places where football matches are being viewed,” adding that crowded areas, including “transport hubs, hotels, restaurants and bars” are possible targets for the militant group.
Despite a nearly three-month-old state of emergency, which was declared in three states in northern Nigeria, the country has seen an increase in attacks as Boko Haram militants and their supporters continue their attempts to carve out an Islamic State. In the latest incidents to rock the northern regions of the country, at least thirty-five people have been killed in two attacks that were carried out by militants. Meanwhile on Tuesday, gunfire and explosions shook one northeastern Nigerian town while soldiers established a round-the-clock curfew on another region in light of a wave of insurgent clashes.
Clashes broke out in the town of Gamboru Ngala, which is located near the border with Cameroon, on Monday night and continued into Tuesday. Due to minimal communications, the military has not yet commented on the situation and details pertaining to the clashes remain unclear. Meanwhile in the city of Potiskum, a round-the-clock curfew has been imposed on the city as soldiers carried out house-to-house searches. Local residents have reported that soldiers were conducting house-to-house searches in two neighborhoods in a bid to locate high-profile Boko Haram members. Although the military has not provided any details as to the sudden imposed curfew, the security operation comes ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday which follows the holy month of Ramadan. There are currently no indications of how long the curfew will remain in place however the country will be celebrating Eid al-Fitr on Thursday and Friday. The situations in the two towns do not appear to be linked as they are located hundreds of kilometers apart. The recent clashes and military operation come in the wake of fighting which occurred on Sunday in two other northeastern towns, in which at least thirty-five people have been killed.
A military statement released by officials indicates that thirty-two militants, along with two soldiers and one police officer, died during assaults that were carried out on a police station and military base on Sunday. Military spokesman Sagir Musa has indicated that “troops have successfully repelled Boko Haram terrorist attacks on a police base in Bama…on 4 August.” He also noted that a military base in the town of Malam Fatori was also attacked, triggering a gun battle. The military has also stated that “sophisticated weapons” and explosives were used in the attacks. Although the attacks had occurred on Sunday, news of the incidents emerged days later as communications with the region have been difficult since the state of emergency was declared on May 14.