LAGOS — Suspected Islamist gunmen killed 27 students and a teacher in a boarding school in the northeast Nigerian town of Potiskum yesterday, a police source said.
The attackers set fire to buildings and shot pupils as they tried to flee, a source said. Several of the students were being treated for burns, he added.
It was the deadliest of three attacks on schools since the military launched an offensive in May to try to crush Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgent group whose nickname translates as “Western education is sinful” in the northern Hausa language.
Potiskum is in Yobe state, one of three covered by a state of emergency declared by President Goodluck Jonathan in May, when he ordered extra troops into the region to try to quell a rebellion seen as the biggest security threat to Africa’s top oil producer.
The police source responded by email as the mobile phone network was cut to much of the northeast as part of the state of emergency.
The hit-and-run strikes have raised fears the seven-week-old military offensive has pushed the militants fighting for a breakaway Islamic state in northeast Nigeria into hiding, but failed to stop them launching devastating attacks.
Suspected Islamist militants opened fire on a school in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri last month, killing nine students and a similar attack on a school in the city of Damaturu killed seven just days earlier.
Nigerian forces say their offensive has enabled them to wrest back control of the remote northeast from Boko Haram, destroy key bases and arrest scores of suspects.