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Suicide bomber kills 48 students in Nigeria

People inspect the damaged roof at the site of an explosion at the Government Science Technical College in Potiskum, Nigeria. Survivors say a suicide bomber disguised in a school uniform detonated explosives at the high school assembly.AP Photo

POTISKUM, Nigeria (AP) — A suicide bomber disguised in a school uniform detonated explosives at a high school assembly Monday in the northeastern Nigerian city of Potiskum, killing at least 48 students, according to survivors and hospital records.

Soldiers rushed to the scene 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.

A suicide bombing in the same city killed 30 people last week, when suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked a religious procession of moderate Muslims.


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

About 2,000 students had gathered for Monday morning’s weekly assembly at the Government Technical Science College when the explosion blasted through the school hall, according to survivors.

‘‘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 the general hospital, where he was being treated for head wounds.

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.

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.

‘‘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.


Hospital records showed 48 bodies and many body parts were brought to the morgue and 79 students were admitted. 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 the victims all appeared to be between the ages of 11 and 20. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to give information to reporters.

Potiskum had one of the biggest cattle markets in Africa and a booming grain market that attracted traders from neighboring countries before Yobe and two neighboring states were put under a state of military emergency in May 2013.

Gov. Ibrahim Gaidam said he was heartbroken by the loss of life, and 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.

Gaidam said President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running for re-election in February, owes an urgent explanation to people living under a state of emergency while attacks increase.

Survivors said the bomber apparently 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.

Garba Alhaji, father of one of the wounded students, said the school didn’t have proper security.

‘‘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 and removed by an anti-bomb squad.


Jonathan’s government also had promised more security for schools.

Boko Haram — the name means ‘‘Education is sinful’’ in the local Hausa language — attracted international outrage with the April kidnappings of 276 mostly Christian schoolgirls writing exams at a northeastern boarding school. Dozens escaped on their own, 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.

In a separate development in neighboring Adamawa state, a helicopter made a crash landing Monday with five foreigners and boxes of arms and ammunition, said witness Manu Buba and others who insisted on anonymity for security reasons. Buba said he arrived at the scene of the crash on the outskirts of the state capital of Yola. He and other witnesses said soldiers evacuated the foreigners and detained some witnesses. The troops threatened journalists who arrived, said Buba.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that a Nigerian Air Force helicopter on a training mission executed a controlled crash-landing and all crew members were safe. The ministry’s statements often differ from reports on the ground.


Faul reported from Johannesburg.