Islamists burn students alive to discourage education

by Julia A. Seymour
Posted 3/04/14, 12:25 pm

Islamic militants in Nigeria continued terrorizing civilians last week, setting fire to a locked boy’s dormitory and other buildings at the Federal Government College in Buni Yadi. Fifty-nine people died in the attack.

Although the school was not Christian, some of the victims have been identified as Christians, according to International Christian Concern (ICC). Emmanuel Ogebe, with the Justice for Jos Project, told ICC that the school was one of the few public, non-Islamic schools in the region.

“There is a high likelihood that many Christians attended the school since many northern state governments, like Yobe, spend public funds on Islamic schools and discourage Christian schools,” he told ICC.

Militants with Boko Haram set fire to the dorm, and shot and slit the throats of students who tried to escape through windows during a pre-dawn attack Feb. 25. Many were burned alive. They “slaughtered them like sheep” with machetes, and gunned down those who ran away, said one teacher, Adamu Garba.

“From where I was hiding I could hear other students crying at the top of their voices,” one anonymous student told Open Doors. “I saw fire on the roofs of the hostels and other buildings in the school. I was also counting myself among the dead because some attackers came from behind and I heard them passing very close to where I was hiding. But God saved my life. After they killed the students and burnt the structures they fled.”

Todd Nettleton, director of media development for Voice of the Martyrs, said school attacks by Boko Haram are not unusual, although this was the first of 2014. “The Boko Haram is opposed to education,” he said. “Their very name means ‘Western education is a sin’ or ‘Western education is evil’ so by attacking schools they hope to put fear in the hearts of the people and keep them from educating their young people.”

Boko Haram’s goal is to expel the government from northern Nigeria and establish an Islamic state of their own. They’ve told Christians, “You can convert to Islam, leave this part of Nigeria, or you can die,” Nettleton said.

In their campaign for an Islamic state, they’ve killed thousands and become the biggest threat to security in Africa's top oil producer, preying on both Muslim and Christian civilians. Earlier in February, the militants killed a pastor and set his church on fire in Kankia, Nigeria. Muslims make up half of the Nigerian population, with Christians making up 40 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook. Boko Haram attacks killed some 300 people in February alone.

“This heinous attack on the school in Yobe state comes less than a week after Boko Haram militants raided the Christian village of Izghe in Borno state, killing over 100 Christian villagers because of their religious identity," ICC’s William Stark said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Julia A. Seymour

Julia has worked as a writer in the Washington, D.C., area since 2005 and was a fall 2012 participant in a World Journalism Institute mid-career class conducted by WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky in Asheville, N.C. Follow Julia on Twitter @SteakandaBible.

Read more from this writer