YOBE, Nigeria – Over 40 Nigerians, some of whom may have been Christians, were killed Saturday in a ruthless attack by Muslim militants affiliated with Boko Haram.
According to an Open Doors USA press release, several Islamic militants carrying containers full of fuel descended upon a boarding school in northeastern Nigeria during pre-dawn hours Saturday. The Muslim attackers doused the school’s dormitory with fuel and set it ablaze, then mercilessly shot anyone who tried to escape.
“We were sleeping when we heard gunshots,” Musa Hassan, a 15-year-old survivor of the attack, recounted to the Nigerian Monitor. “When I woke up, someone was pointing a gun at me.”
When Hassan put his arm up to defend himself, the gunman shot his hand, which blew off four of his fingers. Though Hassan managed to survive, he witnessed firsthand the murder of several of his classmates.
“[The gunmen] burned the children alive,” he remembers.
During the ambush, hundreds of the school’s 1,200 students fled into the surrounding bush, but many of those are still unaccounted for. According to a United Press International report, at least 43 people—42 students and one teacher—have been confirmed dead.
After the militants’ attack, dozens of grief-stricken parents went to a nearby morgue, screaming in anguish as they tried to identify the victims. Many of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.
The attack on the school comes two months after the Nigerian government initiated emergency rule in several of its northern states in an attempt to shut down Muslim jihad. Even though the government claims progress is being made, the violent attacks continue to regularly occur, leading some to question the effectiveness of the crackdown.
“The gunmen are attacking schools,” said Malam Abdullahi, father of two victims in the school shooting, as reported by the Nigerian Monitor. “And there is no protection for students despite all the soldiers.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell told reporters that he doubts the situation has actually improved.
“[The school attack] makes me even more skeptical than I already was about government claims about making progress,” he stated. “It seems to be a ratcheting up of the general horror.”
Boko Haram—which translated means “Western education is sinful”—is a radical Muslim group dedicated to enforcing Sharia law in northern Nigeria. Since its founding in 2001, Boko Haram-affiliated jihadists have killed an estimated 10,000 people. As previously reported, Christians are often targeted in Boko Haram’s bloody attacks.
According to Open Doors USA, about 30 Christians attended the school where the weekend attack took place, but it has not yet been confirmed if any of the believers were among the dead. Nigeria is ranked 13th on Open Doors’ “2013 World Watch List” of the most dangerous places to live as a Christian.
“The carnage in Nigeria continues,” spokesman Jerry Dykstra said in a recent press release. “The senseless slaughter of helpless school students is hard to fathom. Pray for the Lord’s comfort and grace to all families affected by the latest attack. Pray that the Lord will enable the Church to respond in love in the midst of these circumstances and reach out to all affected.”
Photo: Delapo Falola