Three children were killed and a teacher was injured when a man armed with a machete stormed a primary school in northeast Nigeria, two residents said on Thursday.
The attack happened at about 9:30 am (0830 GMT) during breaktime at Jafi Primary School in Kwaya Kusar, in the southwest of Borno state.
Kasimu Ibrahim, who lives near the school, said the attacker — described as being in his 30s and with a neat beard — headed to the school’s nursery section.
“He entered a class and began attacking pupils. He hacked two boys to death, aged about five and seven,” he told AFP by telephone.
A third victim — an eight-year-old girl — died on the way to hospital in neighbouring Gombe state, he added.
The teacher managed to raise the alarm after she was struck in the hands and the attacker was overpowered.
Habibu Suleiman, who also lives nearby and like Ibrahim rushed to the scene when the alarm was raised, gave a similar account.
“Schools in the town have all closed, both public and private,” said Suleiman.
Borno state police spokesman Victor Isuku also confirmed details of the attack but said that only the boys died, while the teacher and girl were wounded.
The attacker was “suspected to be of unsound mind” and had been mobbed and knocked unconscious as news of the attack spread.
He was now in hospital under armed guard, he added.
The state police commissioner, Damian Chukwu, has ordered the suspect to be brought for questioning and an investigation carried out to “determine (his) mental state”.
Kwaya Kusar is some 230 kilometres (150 miles) southwest of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, which has been at the epicentre of Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency.
Ibrahim and Suleiman both blamed the jihadists but while Boko Haram has targeted schools before, Thursday’s incident did not fit a pattern of previous attacks.
Attacks on schools in the eight-year conflict have typically involved large groups of fighters armed with automatic weapons and explosives.
Secondary schools have been the main targets. In February 2014, armed militants killed at least 43 students as they slept at a boys’ boarding school in Buni Yadi, Yobe state.
Boko Haram’s name translates into English from the Hausa widely spoken across northern Nigeria to “Western education is sinful”.
The Jafi Primary School is a state-run, secular school.