KANO - Gunmen stormed a higher education college in northern Nigeria on Wednesday, firing on fleeing students and setting off an explosion in an attack that killed at least 15 people and wounded 35, police said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in the region's main city of Kano, but the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which has repeatedly targeted civilians in the north, is likely to be a prime suspect.
Students and teachers who spoke to VOA Hausa said the attack began around 1 p.m. local time, when the gunmen burst into a room at the Federal College of Education in Kano and began shooting. They said there were two explosions a few moments apart, believed to be carried out by suicide bombers.
A police spokesman added that officers arrived on the scene and killed two of the attackers.
“We heard several shots from the gate area and after a few minutes we heard an explosion at the theater,” said Sanusi Umar, who lectures in English at the federal government college and watched the attack from a neighboring building.
“The attackers were wearing suits and were running and shooting everywhere.”
Authorities told VOA other suspects escaped.
Insurgents from Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden”, are fighting to carve out an Islamic state in Nigeria.
Western-style schools are a prime target for their attacks, which include several secondary school massacres and the abduction of 200 school girls in April from the village of Chibok.
By contrast, schools teaching Islamic doctrines have been left alone.
Since a military offensive began last year, the Islamists have taken out their anger on civilians in increasingly frequent attacks. They have also branched out to strike in areas far from the rebel strongholds.
At least 82 people were killed in July in a double suicide bombing in the north Nigerian city of Kaduna in July.
The group's leader Abubakar Shekau proclaimed a “Muslim territory” in the northeast after seizing Gwoza near the border with Cameroon, to the east, last month.
President Goodluck Jonathan's administration and the armed forces face mounting criticism that they are failing in the war to counter Boko Haram.
Jonathan in a statement called the Kano raid a “dastardly attack”, adding that “the government continues to do all within its powers to further enhance the ability of ... security agencies to prosecute the war against terrorism to a successful conclusion and provide greater security ... across the country.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government said in a written statement on Wednesday that the military killed "several terrorists" late Tuesday as it battled insurgents in the town of Konduga, in northeastern Borno state.
Some material for this report came from VOA's Hausa Service.