Dozens of Nigerian students killed in attack

Suspected Boko Haram gunmen opened fire on teenagers as they slept in dormitories in northeastern Nigeria

Children stand next to burnt vehicles after an attack by scores of Boko Haram Islamists on Feb. 20, 2014 in the northeast Nigerian town of Bama.
2014 AFP

Suspected members of Boko Haram opened fire at a high school in Nigeria on Tuesday, killing at least 59, including many students as they slept in a dormitory, the latest school massacre in Nigeria's troubled northeast, security forces said.

Gunmen stormed the Federal Government College in the town of Buni Yadi, in Yobe state, at 2 a.m., said military spokesman Lazarus Eli.

School attacks have featured prominently in Boko Haram's most recent uprising, which has killed thousands of people. The group, declared a terrorist organisation by Nigeria and the United States, has said it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north.

The name Boko Haram loosely translates to "Western education is forbidden.” 

Eli said the gunmen "opened fire on student hostels" at the school, roughly 40 miles from the state capital Damaturu. The dormitories house students age 11 to 18.

Yobe police chief Sanusi Rufai said that 59 people were killed, but it was not immediately clear if all of the dead were students. Yobe is one of three northeastern states placed under emergency rule last May when the military launched a massive operation to crush the uprising.

At least 40 students were killed in September at an agricultural training school in Yobe after Boko Haram gunmen stormed a series of dorms in the middle of the night.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in the northeast since the emergency measures were imposed, despite the enhanced military presence.

Geidam and the governor of neighboring Borno state, Kashim Shettima, have fiercely criticized the military's record in combatting Boko Haram, insisting that more resources were needed to defeat the emboldened and increasingly well-armed insurgents.

In a video sent to news agency Agence France-Presse last week, Boko Haram's purported leader, Abubakar Shekau, said he would continue his relentless campaign of violence on anyone who supports democracy or so-called Western values.

Shekau, declared a global terrorist by the United States, also threatened to widen the insurgency outside the group's northeastern stronghold with attacks in the oil-producing, southern Niger Delta region.

Nigeria is Africa's top oil producer and an Islamist attack in the country's key economic region would pile further pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan, who has faced scathing criticism over his handling of the Boko Haram crisis.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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