Dozens of students were killed Sunday when gunmen attacked a college in northeast Nigeria, a region where Islamist militants have targeted schools and universities.
Gunmen stormed the College of Agriculture in Yobe state and shot students as they slept, state police commissioner Sanusi Rufai told Reuters.
The Nigerian military collected 42 bodies and transported 18 injured students to Damaturu Specialist Hospital, a military intelligence official, who insisted on anonymity, told The Associated Press.
The Islamist militant group Boko Haram – the name means “Western education is forbidden” – is believed to be responsible for the attack on the college in the town of Gujba, according to military spokesman Lazarus Eli.
Northeastern Nigeria is in a state of emergency amid an insurgency led by Boko Haram militants, who have killed more than 1,700 people since 2009 in their quest for an Islamic state.
The gunmen also torched several classrooms on the campus, the college's provost Molima Idi Mato told the AP. Mato said he could not give an exact death toll because security forces were still in the process of recovering bodies from the attack, but believed the total to be around 50.
The other 1,000 students enrolled have fled the college that is about 25 miles north of the scene of similar school attacks around Damaturu town.
There were no security forces stationed at the college despite government assurances they would be deployed, added Mato. The state commissioner for education, Mohammmed Lamin, called a news conference two weeks ago urging all schools to reopen and promising protection from soldiers and police.
Most area schools closed after militants attacked a school in Mamudo on July 6, killing 29 students and a teacher. Some of the victims were burned alive, according to AP.
Government and security officials claim they are winning their war on terror in the northeast but Sunday's attack and others belie those assurances.
The Islamic extremists have killed at least 30 other civilians in the past week.
Twenty-seven people died in separate attacks Wednesday and Thursday night on two villages of Borno state near the northeast border with Cameroon, according to the representative of the Gamboru-Ngala local government council.
More than 30,000 people have fled the terrorist attacks to neighboring Cameroon and Chad. The uprising, combined with the military emergency, has forced farmers from their fields and vendors from their markets.
The attacks come as Nigeria prepares to celebrate 52 years of independence from Britain on Tuesday and amid increasing political jockeying as the country gears up for presidential elections next year.
With Al Jazeera and wire services