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Schools, students targeted by Nigerian Islamists for horrific attacks

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 16th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Boko Haram, a nickname which translates roughly as "Western education is sinful," is targeting Nigerian schools in an attempt to halt what they think is creeping western influence among the newly emerging African powerhouse. Schools have been set aflame and students and teachers have been shot at point-blank range in an ongoing wave of terror.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An especially horrific attack was carried out by terrorists at the Mamudo government school, on July 6 near Potiskum in Nigeria's northeast. Twenty-two students and an instructor lost their lives there at the hands of militants. 

"They made the students line up and strip naked, then they made the ones with pubic hair lie face down on the ground," one headmaster says. "They shot them point blank then set the bodies on fire."

Boko Haram's purported leader Abubakar Shekau denied ordering the latest killings in a video upload to the Internet. He said that Boko Haram does not itself kill small children - but still praised the attacks upon Western schools.

"We fully support the attack on school in Mamudo, as well as on other schools," he said. "Western education schools are against Islam ... We will kill their teachers."

Formed 10 years ago, Boko Haram first began as a clerical movement opposed to Western influence. The sect's founder, Mohammed Yusuf, says that western ideas were poisoning young minds against Islam.

Boko Haram's followers are fighting to revive a medieval Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria. Security forces and politicians were at first the main targets of the 2009 armed revolt that left 800 people dead.

Since then, Boko Haram has splintered into several factions, including some with ties to al Qaeda's Saharan wing. Before June of this year, there had been only a handful of attacks on the Western-style schools.

However, an offensive against insurgents since President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three remote northern states in May has changed that.

In the meantime schools are emptying out across northeastern Nigeria, threatening further radicalization and economic decline that's been left behind by the country's oil-rich Christian south.

Some analysts sat that the school attacks indicate the offensive has weakened the Islamist group, seen as the main security threat to Africa's leading oil and gas producer.

However, the school attacks also reflect a radical ideology that resents modernity and yearns to wind back the clock to an era before West African lands were conquered by Europeans.

Nassir Salaudeen, a teacher whose son was killed in a strike on Damaturu government school on June 16, said he had put all his efforts into his son's education in the hope he would get a good job.

"They killed him in cold blood, just because he was a student and his father a teacher," a tearful Salaudeen said. "I regret ever being educated."

"These terrorists are trying to stop western education but we cannot allow them do that," he said. "We must do everything to ensure children are safe in the school."

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