Suicide bomber disguised in school uniform kills 48 students at northern Nigerian school

Disguised in a school uniform, a suicide bomber set off explosives hidden in a backpack during an assembly Monday at a high school in northern Nigeria, killing at least 48 students and wounding 79 others.

POTISKUM, Nigeria — Disguised in a school uniform, a suicide bomber set off explosives hidden in a backpack during an assembly Monday at a high school in northern Nigeria, killing at least 48 students and wounding 79 others.

It was the latest attack by suspected Boko Haram militants who kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls earlier this year.

Soldiers rushed to the grisly scene, spattered with body parts, but were chased away by a stone-throwing crowd angry at the military’s inability to halt a 5-year-old Islamic insurgency that has targeted schools and killed thousands.

The Islamic militants — whose name means “Western education is sinful” in the local Hausa language — have intensified the tempo and deadliness of attacks since the government announced last month that the group had agreed to a cease-fire and that the schoolgirls would be released imminently. Boko Haram’s leader has denied any cease-fire deal and the girls have not been set free.

Monday’s bombing came one week after a suicide attack in Potiskum, the capital of Yobe state, killed 30 people taking part in a religious procession by moderate Muslims.

Some 2,000 students had gathered for a weekly assembly at the Government Technical Science College when the explosion ripped through the school hall, survivors said.

“We were waiting for the principal to address us, around 7:30 a.m., 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 his hospital bed, where he was being treated for head wounds.

Survivors said the bomber hid the explosives in a type of backpack popular with students. Months ago Nigeria’s military reported finding a bomb factory where explosives were being sewn into backpacks in the northern city of Kano.

Hospital records showed 48 bodies and many body parts were brought to the morgue. Seventy-nine students were admitted, many with serious injuries that may require amputations, health workers said. The hospital was so overcrowded that some patients were crammed two to a bed.

The victims all appeared to be between the ages of 11 and 20, a morgue attendant said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the suicide bombing and expressed outrage at “the frequency and brutality of attacks against educational institutions in the north,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

“These repeated and relentless attacks on children and schools are attacks on the future of Nigeria, a country that already has the largest number of children out of school in the world,” UNICEF said.

Ban demanded an immediate halt to “these abominable crimes” and called for the perpetrators to be swiftly brought to justice and adequate security measures to protect civilians, Haq said.

The Yobe state government ordered the immediate closure of all government schools in the area.

Potiskum was once the home of one of Africa’s biggest cattle markets and a booming grain market that attracted traders from neighbouring countries before a state of emergency was declared in May 2013 in Yobe and two other northern Nigerian states, where Boko Haram has attacked schools and villages and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes in its fight to impose an Islamic state.

Gov. Ibrahim Gaidam said he was heartbroken by the loss of life during Monday’s attack, and denounced the failure of emergency rule. “Instead of forcing insurgents and criminals to flee, the insurgents are forcing innocent people to flee and making life miserable,” he said.

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan owes an urgent explanation to people living under a state of emergency while attacks increase, the governor said.

Garba Alhaji, the father of one of the wounded students, said the high school did not have proper security. “I strongly blame the Yobe state government for not fencing the school,” he said, adding that just three months ago a bomb was discovered in the school and removed by an anti-bomb squad.

The government of Jonathan, who is running for re-election in February, has promised more security for schools.

Boko Haram attracted international outrage with the April kidnapping of 276 mostly Christian schoolgirls as they were taking exams at a boarding school in northern Nigeria. Dozens of the girls managed to escape, but 219 remain missing. Boko Haram has said that the girls have all converted to Islam and been married off to extremist fighters.

Many Nigerians are angry that Boko Haram has increased attacks and bombings since Oct. 17, when the government claimed to have brokered a cease-fire. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has denied negotiating a truce.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

The Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club is hoping to win $50,000 through the Mackenzie Investments Top Peak contest. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta ski club trying to win $50K in online contest

A central Alberta ski club has entered a contest where it can… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on December 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives to call top Sajjan, Trudeau aides to testify on Vance allegations

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides… Continue reading

Elvira D'Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada’s… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

A passenger places a tag on luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and familial connections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

WASHINGTON — The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian… Continue reading

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of… Continue reading

Radio and television personality Dick Smyth is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro of news radio commentary, dies at 86

TORONTO — Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

Most Read