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Nigerian state orders schools to close after massacre

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Nigeria's northeastern Yobe state on Sunday ordered the closure of all secondary schools after a massacre that saw suspected Islamist extremists kill 42 people in a gun and bomb attack on a boarding school.

Yobe state governor Ibrahim Gaidam has "directed that all secondary schools in the state be closed down from Monday 8th July 2013 until a new academic session begins in September," a government statement said.

The attack early Saturday in the Mamudo district saw assailants -- believed to be Boko Haram Islamists -- round up students and staff in a dormitory before throwing explosives inside and opening fire, said Haliru Aliyu of Potiskum General Hospital, quoting witnesses who escaped.

It was the third school attack in the region in recent weeks, including two in Yobe.

The state government also called on the military to restore mobile phone service, saying it was preventing residents from reporting suspicious activity.

Nigeria's military cut phone service in much of the country's northeast in mid-May, when it launched a sweeping offensive seeking to end a four-year insurgency by Boko Haram.

Satellite phones have also been banned, with the military saying insurgents use them to plan attacks. Landline service is extremely rare in Nigeria.

A number of residents had initially expressed support for the phone cut if it could lead to peace, but the Yobe government's statement indicated patience was running out.

Boko Haram, which translates roughly to "Western education is a sin," has repeatedly targeted schools in the northeast as part of its insurgency.

One local resident said Saturday's attack was believed to be a reprisal for the killing of 22 Boko Haram members during a military raid in the town of Dogon Kuka on Thursday.

A senior police officer said the students were asleep when the attackers stormed their school. They then started "shooting sporadically and subsequently set the students' hostel ablaze," he said.

Lieutenant Eli Lazarus, spokesman for a military task force in the state, said the gunmen "stormed the school around 5:30 am and began to shoot at the students from different directions."

Violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency has left some 3,600 people dead since 2009, including killings by security forces, which have come under criticism for alleged abuses.

The current military offensive was launched after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states on May 14.

He said at the time that the insurgents had managed to take control of a number of remote, border areas of the region.

Nigeria's northeast borders the nations of Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Since then, the military has claimed major successes and say they have pushed the insurgents out, but the violence has continued, indicating the gains may be short-lived.

It is also impossible to independently verify the military's account of the offensive due to the phone cut and restricted access to remote areas.

Boko Haram has drawn the scrutiny of Western nations fearing links with outside extremists groups such as Al-Qaeda's north African branch, known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The European Union on Sunday condemned the Yobe school attack, labelling it a "horrific murder by terrorists."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130707/nigerian-state-orders-schools-close-after-massacre