Posted On 30 Sep 2013
An uneasy calm now reigns in parts of Northern Nigeria and the capital Abuja on the eve of independence celebrations. Suspected Boko Haram militants reportedly gunned down 50 sleeping students at the Gujba Agriculture College yesterday September 29, 2013, on the eve of Nigeria’s 53rd independence anniversary commemorations.
The students were killed in Yobe College in North Eastern Nigeria where Boko Haram has attacked before.
The gunmen reportedly smashed the college dormitory open and set fire to the classrooms after shooting students indiscriminately in their sleep.
Mulima Mata an Administrator at the college and the military spokesman in Yobe, Lazarus Eli, confirmed the attack. Boko Haram literarily means “western education is sinful.” The militants have attacked educational institutions in the past since they are opposed to anybody undergoing any type of education that is not Islamic in nature.
Bodies of victims were evacuated from the hostels and others recovered from surrounding bushes, showing that some of the students were killed as they tried to escape from the mayhem.
Salamanu Ibrahim, a 23-year-old student in the college told newsmen that dozens of militants were involved in the attack and that they shot their victims indiscriminately.
“The attackers went berserk. They were fully armed with sophisticated rifles, and improvised explosives and razed several college buildings of the dorms,” he said.
Although President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to celebrate the Independence Day inside the presidential mansion Aso Rock, a police helicopter seen carrying out aerial patrol of Abuja on Friday was said to be part of heightened security measures being undertaken to ensure the anniversary celebrations were hitch-free. Security forces have now been deployed to various “soft targets” across the country, including churches, open fields and stadiums.
The deadly attack at the agriculture college in Yobe comes a week after suspected Al-Shabaab militants gunned down 67 people at the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya.
The United States on Thursday September 26, 2013 said Al-Shabaab had close links with the violent Boko Haram sect in Nigeria and plans were underway to increase the number of troops and finances available to fight both terror organisations which were linked to Al Qaeda.
A few days before the attack on the agriculture college, a man who was said to be the Boko Haram leader Abu Shekau surfaced in a new video weeks after Nigerian and Cameroonian security forces claimed they had killed him. In the video, Shekau claimed he was involved in the Kenya mall attack and threatened to unleash more attacks in Nigeria.
On the eve of the Yobe massacre, President Barack Obama described Boko Haram as “one of the most vicious terrorist organisations in the world.”
President Jonathan questioned the motives of Boko Haram in killing innocent students. “Why did they kill them? … Were they Christians? Were they Muslims?” He again promised the militants would eventually be subdued.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton called the slaughter “horrific.”
Three states in the North Eastern part of Nigeria, including Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, remain under a state of emergency imposed on May 14, 2013 following earlier attacks blamed on Boko Haram. Telephone networks in most of the area have also been switched off.
Boko Haram has said it was fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, but the group is believed to be made up of different factions with varying aims.
The sect has attacked churches, mosques, newspaper offices, security forces, politicians and a UN building in Abuja, among other targets.
More than 3,600 people have been killed since the state of the insurgency.