A SUICIDE bomber disguised in a school uniform detonated explosives at a high school assembly in the northeastern Nigerian city of Potiskum yesterday, killing at least 48 students.
Soldiers rushed to the scene in the capital of Yobe state, but they were chased away by a crowd angry at the military’s inability to halt a five-year-old Islamic insurgency that has killed thousands and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.
A suicide bomb attack in the same city killed 30 people a week ago, when suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked a religious procession of moderate Muslims.
Some 2,000 students had gathered for the morning’s weekly assembly yesterday at the Government Science Secondary School when the explosion ripped through the school hall, according to survivors.
“We were waiting for the principal to address us, around 7:30 am, when we heard a deafening sound and I was blown off my feet. People started screaming and running, I saw blood all over my body,” 17-year-old student Musa Ibrahim Yahaya said from the hospital, where he was being treated for his injuries.
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Hospital records show 79 students were admitted and health workers said they include serious injuries that may require amputations. The hospital was so overcrowded that some patients were two to a bed.
A morgue attendant said 48 bodies were brought to the hospital and all appeared to be between the ages of 11 and 20 years old.
Survivors said the bomber appeared to have hidden the explosives in a type of rucksack popular with students. Months ago Nigeria’s military had reported finding a bomb factory where explosives were being sewn into rucksacks in the northern city of Kano.
Garba Alhaji, father of one of the wounded students, said there was no proper security at the school. “I strongly blame the Yobe state government for not fencing the college,” he said, adding that just three months ago a bomb was discovered in the school by an anti-bomb squad.
Boko Haram has intensified its attacks recently. The group, whose name means “Western education is sinful” in Hausa, has attacked schools, abducted hundreds of students and killed thousands in its fight for an Islamist state, and is seen as the main security threat to Africa’s leading oil producer.
“So far, the number of the dead is 48, while 79 are injured. I counted the bodies, mostly students and a few teachers,” a nurse at Potiskum General Hospital said. A teacher who survived the blast with minor injury said the bomber dressed like a student and was also on the assembly ground with the students.
The Nigeria police force confirmed that the bomber was disguised as a student.
Potiskum resident Aliyu Abubakar said he heard the explosion when he was dropping off his two sons at a nearby Islamic college. “One of my sons fell down, I came out dragged him in and we drove off back home,” he said.
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