DAKAR — Gunmen attacked a boarding school in northern Nigeria in the middle of the night and killed at least 42 students, according to sources at the hospital morgue. Security forces at the scene said it is too soon to give exact figures on dead and wounded.
The military spokesman for Nigeria's Yobe state said the attack took place after Midnight Sunday at the College of Agriculture in the rural district of Gujba outside the state capital, Damaturu.
Captain Eli Lazarus of the Joint Military Task Force said the attackers are suspected to belong to the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram.
"When the terrorists arrived at the school, they surrounded the male hotel [dormitory], opened fire indiscriminately which led to the death of several students and several others were wounded," Lazarus said. "At present, our troops are in the general area trying to see if we can arrest the fleeing terrorists in the direction that they are fleeing."
Captain Lazarus said by mid-day, response teams were still combing the surrounding bush for students who fled, some of them believed to be wounded.
VOA Hausa service spoke to a student who jumped out the window of his dormitory amid screams and gunfire. He and other students ran in the direction of the farms surrounding the campus. The student said gunmen pursued them, shooting at them and killing some of the fleeing students. Those who escaped were too scared to come out until daylight.
Abubakar Yahaya ran to the school to look for his son who was a student there. He told VOA he saw bodies on the ground inside and outside the dormitory.
Yahaya later found his son's body at the hospital morgue.
He says it looked like some of the students had been shot while trying to run for their lives, while others were shot inside the dormitory as they could not escape. He says he saw about 18 wounded students being taken away in ambulances and he counted 42 dead bodies, including that of his son, at the morgue.
This is not the first attack of this nature in Yobe State. In July, Boko Haram militants raided the dormitories of a secondary school in Mamudo during the night, killing at least 29 people, most of them students.
The government of Yobe state had closed all its schools after the Mamudo attack, but recently reopened them to allow students to take their final exams.
The sect's nickname, Boko Haram, means "Western education is sacrilege" and it has routinely targeted schools, along with military and police installations, churches and markets.
The insurgency has been raging in northern Nigeria since 2009. The violence has killed more than 3,000 people. In May, the Nigerian military launched a big offensive against the sect in the northeast, but the hit-and-run attacks, often against civilians, have continued.
Ardo Hazzad contributed to this report from BAUCHI, NIGERIA.