KANO, April 20, 2014 (AFP) – Gunmen in northern Nigeria set fire to a staff residential building at a girls’ secondary school on Sunday but the 195 students sleeping in their nearby dormitories were unharmed, police and a teacher said.
The attack in Bauchi state came less than a week after Boko Haram Islamists kidnapped 129 teenage schoolgirls from the Chibok area of Borno state in the northeast. Forty-four of those girls have since escaped.
“At about 2:30 am (0130 GMT), unknown gunmen carried out coordinated attacks in Yana town,” Bauchi’s police spokesman Haruna Mohammed said.
They burnt “several buildings including a staff quarters of a girls’ secondary school, an eight-block police quarters, a sharia (Islamic law) court and the local government secretariat,” he told AFP.
Mohammed said it was not clear who carried out the attack and provided no details on casualties.
Boko Haram, an extremist group fighting to create a strict Islamic state in northern Nigeria, has attacked Bauchi many times in an insurgency that has killed thousands since 2009.
A teacher at the school who requested anonymity said the attackers appeared to have deliberately avoided the student residential buildings.
“The gunmen only attacked the teachers’ quarters but did not go near the girls’ hostels,” he said.
“We have 195 students staying at the hostels who are writing their (end-of-term) exams, but none of them were affected,” he continued.
“It is a great relief, considering what happened in Chibok.”
The Monday attack in Chibok, unprecedented in Boko Haram’s uprising, has sparked global outrage.
With 85 girls still missing, locals have urged the military to launch a more robust rescue mission, claiming that the effort made so far is inadequate.
Parents have scoured the bushlands surrounding Chibok in a desperate attempt to rescue their daughters.
Locals have also urged Boko Haram to show compassion and release the girls who are likely being held in a forest area where the Islamists are known to have well fortified camps.
Boko Haram translates as “Western education is forbidden”, and school attacks have featured prominently in its five-year uprising.
In a report released this month, the International Crisis Group described the Islamists as more divided than ever, with various factions pursuing different interests.
The attackers in Bauchi may have been members of a less hardline Boko Haram cell, one not prepared to commit a mass abduction like in Chibok.
Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack ever in Nigeria’s capital, a bomb blast that killed at least 75 people on the outskirts of the city during morning rush hour on Monday.