Boko Haram Islamist gunmen attacked a secondary school in Nigeria on Saturday, killing 42 people, many of them children who were shot and burned alive.
The attack took place early Saturday morning in the northeast part of the country, which has seen many attacks from Islamist groups. A military spokesman said 20 students and one teacher were killed in the attack, but officials at Potiskum General Hospital said the toll was much higher.
“We received 42 dead bodies of students and other staff of Government Secondary School (in) Mamudo last night. Some of them had gunshot wounds,” Haliru Aliyu told AFP, adding that many also had burns.
Survivors said the Boko Haram gunmen rounded up students and staff and brought them to a dormitory, where the attackers began throwing explosives and opening fire.
“It was a gory sight. People who went to the hospital and saw the bodies shed tears,” a local resident said. “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.”
The resident said the attack was believed to be retribution for a military raid in the town of Dogon Kuka that left 22 Boko Haram members dead.
The Islamist sect of Boko Haram, whose name means ”Western education is sacrilege,” have been blamed for a large spike in violence in Nigeria. Boko Haram and other breakaway groups are blamed for more than 1,600 killings since 2010, The Associated Press found. Several attacks have been against schools.
NIgerian President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in the region, deploying thousands of troops to combat the militant Islamists. But as the troops pushed them out of towns, the groups have taken up in mountains and caves, which have become a new base of operations for attacks on schools and villages.
Boko Haram is also blamed for a June attack in which nine students were shot and killed as they took an exam at a private school in Maiduguri.