Nigeria suicide blast points to Boko Haram's war on secular schools

A suicide bomber detonated explosives on Monday at a school assembly in northeast Nigeria, killing at least 47 students. Nigeria's government claimed last month that it had reached a cease-fire agreement with Boko Haram, the suspected perpetrators. 

Adamu Adamu/AP
People inspect the damaged roof at the Government Science Technical College in Potiskum, Nigeria, the site of a suicide bomb explosion on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014.

A suicide bomber dressed in a school uniform killed at least 47 students at a school assembly in northeastern Nigeria on Monday, the second deadly attack in the same town in a week.

No group has claimed responsibility for today's attack in Potiskum in Yobe State. But suspicion fell immediately on Boko Haram, the militant extremists who have led an intensifying insurgency in the region for the last five years and frequently targets secular schools. 

The group continued its attacks even after Nigeria last month announced a ceasefire agreement claiming that Boko Haram, which can be translated as "Western education is sinful," would release more than 200 schoolgirls that it kidnapped from Chibok in April, Reuters reports. The group denies ever agreeing to a ceasefire and has yet to set the schoolgirls free.

A suspected militant disguised in a school uniform carried out Monday's bombing at the Government Technical Science College, The Associated Press reports, where some 2,000 students had gathered for assembly.

Soldiers rushed to the scene, grisly with body parts, in the capital of Yobe state, but they were chased away by a crowd throwing stones and shouting that they are angry at the military's inability to halt a 5-year-old Islamic insurgency that has killed thousands and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Seventy-nine students were admitted to a local hospital after the attack, according to hospital records obtained by the AP. Health workers told the news agency that some injuries were serious and could require amputations.

"The government needs to be more serious about the fight against Boko Haram because it is getting out of control," a grieving relative told the BBC.

Last week, a suicide bomber attacked a religious procession of Shia Muslims in Potiskum, killing 30 people. Boko Haram espouses militant fundamentalist beliefs that make no room for other interpretations of Islam. 

The Daily Telegraph reports that a government boarding school near Potiskum was attacked in July 2013 by Boko Haram, and 42 students died. 

BBC reporter Will Ross said Monday's suicide bomber clearly aimed to kill as many students as possible by detonating the explosives during the morning assembly. He added that future attacks seem all but certain. "The insecurity in the north-east is so rampant, with entire towns and villages now in the jihadists' hands, it will be extremely hard for other bombings to be prevented," he said.

Those living in the region have grown increasingly frustrated by the Nigerian military's response to Boko Haram. As The Christian Science Monitor's Heather Murdock reported earlier this year:

With the Nigerian military accounting for the largest single budget item in West Africa's largest nation, why the Army appears to be incapable of protecting people has become a raging question bringing tension and great disappointment. 

"Insecurity in Nigeria has continued almost unabated," says University of Abuja lecturer Abubakar Umar Kari, who attributes the military ineffectiveness partly to corruption. "In the past three years, defense has been grabbing the greatest amount in terms of appropriation and there is very little to show for it."

Boko Haram began as a quiet if radical sect about 12 years ago. The group preaches a harsh version of Islamic law that forbids girls from attending school and says boys should only receive an Islamic education. 

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