Nigeria’s President, UN’s Ban Condemn School Massacre

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the overnight attack on a school by suspected Islamist rebels that killed at least 29 students in the northeast.

Jonathan’s government “will not relent in its ongoing efforts to end the scourge of terrorism,” his spokesman Reuben Abati said in a statement e-mailed late yesterday. The security forces will persist “until the dark cloud of mass murder and destruction of lives and property is permanently removed from our horizon.”

In the attack, the latest in a string of northeastern raids by the Boko Haram group that have killed about 250 people this year, gunmen mounted a four-hour assault that began on Feb. 24 at the Federal Government College in Buni Yadi, Yobe state.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the increasing frequency and brutality of attacks against educational institutions in the north of the country,” Ban’s office said on the UN website. “He reiterates that no objective can justify such violence.”

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin” in the Hausa language, is fighting to impose Islamic law in Africa’s biggest oil producer. Attacks have continued after Jonathan imposed emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states last May. The U.S. State Department designated Boko Haram a terrorist organization in November.

Missing People

The group killed at least 170 students and teachers last year in attacks on schools in the northeast, according to Amnesty International. The sect has torched more than 50 schools in the region in the past year, according to Nigeria’s education ministry.

The death toll in the latest attack will probably rise from “about 30” because “some people who ran into the bush with bullet wounds may have died,” Mohammed Kanar, northeast coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, said today by phone from the northeastern city of Maiduguri. Emergency workers from the government agency, known as NEMA, have arrived in Buni Yadi and are trying to account for missing people, he said.

“The pursuit of education cannot be cause for the mass murder of innocent children,” said Chidi Odinkalu, chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission. The government “must reflect the tragic backdrop of the country” during planned celebrations this week to mark 100 years of the creation of Nigeria, he said.

Sealed Border

On Feb. 24, the army said it had sealed parts of Nigeria’s border with Cameroon to help combat the insurgency.

“Unless the Nigerian government deploys additional forces to the region, or there is more effective cooperation from Cameroon, Niger and Chad, which appears unlikely at this juncture given their respective security priorities, Boko Haram activities look set to persist in the short-to-medium term,” Poole, U.K.-based risk consultancy Drum Cussac said today in e-mailed comments.

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people since it started an insurgency in 2009 in attacks across the mainly Muslim north and the capital, Abuja. Nigeria’s 170 million people are almost evenly split between Christians, predominant in the south, and Muslims.

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