From Uche Uche, Damaturu & Lawrence Olaoye, with agency report.
A suicide bomber, dressed in school uniform has killed about 47 students, while 79 other students, aged between 10 and 20, were injured at the Science and Technical College, Potiskum, the commercial town of Yobe state yesterday morning.
The blast happened at the Government Comprehensive Senior Science Secondary School, in Potiskum, Yobe state, as students waited to hear the principal’s daily address.
“There was an explosion detonated by a suicide bomber,” the Police spokesman, Emmanuel Ojukwu confirmed. “We have 47 dead and 79 injured,” he added, saying that the extremists were believed to be responsible.
“The students had gathered for the morning assembly when something exploded in their midst with a thunderous sound at exactly 7:50 a.m.,” said one teacher, who asked not to be identified.
“The explosion has affected many students but I can’t say how many because we are now evacuating the victims to the hospital which is just 100 metres (yards) away,” the teacher added, sobbing.
A medic at the Potiskum General Hospital, where the victims were taken said scores of students had been admitted.
“We are still receiving casualties from the school which is a stone’s throw from here,” the medic said. “Our priority now is to save the injured, so we have not started a headcount of the victims.”
The town was immediately thrown into pandemonium, as many parents have to beseech schools in the town to pick their children back home. A local resident, Adamu Alkassim, said there was confusion in and around the school, but the scene was a mass of abandoned footwear and blood.
An eyewitness, Abubakar Babadada, who participated in the rescue operation for the injured ones and others, said he went to the scene only to see bodies of some of the dead students torn into pieces.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but Boko Haram militants are likely to be the prime suspects. They were alleged to have been behind the suicide bomb attack on a Shiite movement religious procession, reported to have killed over 30 persons last week.
In February, gunmen killed at least 40 students when they opened fire on students and threw explosives into the dormitory of a government boarding school in Buni Yadi, also in Yobe state.
In July last year 42 students were killed when Boko Haram gunmen attacked dormitories with guns and explosives in a government boarding school in the village of Mamudo, near Potiskum.
Potiskum, the commercial hub of Yobe state, has been repeatedly targeted by deadly attacks blamed on Boko Haram.
Yobe is one of three northeastern states that have been under a state of emergency since May last year, to try to quell the bloody insurgency.
But violence has continued unabated and Boko Haram has seized at least two dozen towns and villages in recent months, raising fears of the government’s ability to control the region.
However, despite continued attacks by Boko Haram, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday reiterated the determination if his administration to end the spate of terrorism in the country.
The President in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, extended heartfelt commiserations to the government, people of Yobe state and parents on the death of many students in a bomb attack on Potiskum Monday.
“The President similarly assures all Nigerians that in spite of seeming setbacks, his administration remains fully committed to winning the war against insurgency and terrorism.” the statement said
Also, Yobe state Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam yesterday ordered the immediate closure of all public schools around the Potiskum area until a full review of the situation is undertaken.
The governor, called on people throughout Yobe State to exercise restraint and continue to pray for the intervention of Almighty Allah (SWT), saying that “despite the state of emergency in place, he will continue to do everything within his powers to get the federal government to do more and also to continue to offer his administration’s support to all people affected.”
The governor has directed hospital authorities in Potiskum to provide immediate medical support to victims of the school attack free of charge. The Yobe state Government will also foot the medical bills of some of the victims who have been referred to the Federal Medical Centres in Nguru and Azare.
The governor has also directed the Commissioner of Health to undertake regular review of the conditions of victims and suggest what additional measures might be needed to help them recover
According to a press statement issued by the Special Adviser to the governor on Press Affairs and Information, Abdullahi Bego, “The thoughts of His Excellency Governor Ibrahim Gaidam and his prayers are with the parents, teachers and families of the innocent victims of this callous and reprehensible attack.”