Over 49 students were killed in a suicide bomb attack at the Senior Science Secondary School in Potiskum, Yobe State yesterday.
Some 86 other people sustained various degrees of injuries in the attack, which was carried out by a man who disguised as a student and penetrated the school’s assembly ground.
This was the fifth deadly attack on schools in Yobe State in the last one year, leaving more than a hundred people dead.
Many of the dead in yesterday’s attack had their bodies decapitated while many of the injured are in critical condition in various hospitals.
Some are in need of blood as others require specialised treatment to remain alive, witnesses and hospital sources said.
The blast happened around 7.45 am when hundreds of students gathered for the morning assembly in front of the principal’s office.
“The assembly ground was filled with students and teachers because it was Monday, no student dares to stay at home on Monday,” said Mohammed Musa, one of the students who survived the blast.
“We were at the assembly ground when a man dressed in school uniform came in carrying a bag on his shoulder. Most of us became suspicious of him because he looked strange but before we could act, the bomb went off, killing many of our friends and brothers,” he said.
Musa said three months ago, a bomb was discovered in one of the classrooms in the school.
“Soon after the discovery, the anti-bomb squad came from Damaturu and disconnected it, and since then we became extra-vigilant,” he said.
A hospital worker said they received 48 corpses from the scene of the blast and another injured student died later in the hospital.
“The death toll has risen to 49 and 86 others who sustained injuries have been hospitalised,” he said.
Parents and guardians were seen at the school premises, most of them looking confused and distressed.
Some were seen at the mortuary of the General Hospital, Potiskum trying to sort out the remains of their loved ones.
A mother, who identified corpses of her two sons, slumped and was taken to emergency unit.
“She is hypertensive, we insisted that she should stay at home but she refused…we are now battling to save her life too,” her brother said.
Principal of the school, Baba Sanda Mustapha, told Daily Trust that he was not sure of the exact number of people killed but said the school has a student population of about 2,000.
“The fact is not all the students attended the assembly, so we cannot tell the number of students affected by the blast. Some parents picked corpses and their injured children even before we conveyed them to hospital,” he said.
Residents close to the school described how some of the students ran into nearby homes with their uniforms soaked in blood and appealing for help.
“Some slumped on the way because blood was gushing from their bodies,” said Lydia Sam.
Malam Bello Khalil said he had never seen such a horrible thing.
“It’s so horrible; the scene was a sad place to look at. I cannot imagine how a human being can be so wicked to kill these innocent children,” he said.
Kulu Mustapha, who also lives near the school, said she saw some vehicles heading towards the Federal Medical Centre in Azare, Bauchi State with some of the injured victims.
“The suicide bomber disguised as a student because he wore the same uniform being used by students of the school. This gave him the ease to get much close to the assembly ground where he carried out the nefarious act,” she said.
“It was a gory scene because some of the innocent students have been decapitated by the explosion; what you only see is body parts and tattered uniforms.”
The Yobe Police Commissioner Markus Danladi, when contacted by Daily Trust, said he was on his way to the scene of the blast and could not confirm the number of casualties.
A medic at the Potiskum General Hospital said there was shortage of blood needed to save the lives of the injured.
“Some of the victims lost a lot of blood and may die if nothing urgent is done,” he said.
Meanwhile, angry youth in Potiskum have reportedly denied soldiers and other security operatives from getting access to the bombed school.
“We chased them (security operatives) away because the worst has happened and we feel they would not do anything to reverse the sad incident. The students have died and therefore we don’t want them at the scene,” one of the protesters said.
The mob pelted the security operatives with stones, chanting, “Bama so, Bama so” meaning “We don’t want you.”
This is the second bomb attack in Potiskum in eight days. Last week Monday, a suicide bomber killed dozens of people in a procession of Shi’ites in Potiskum.
‘Jonathan should explain’
Meanwhile, Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gaidam said he was heartbroken over the bombing. A statement by his spokesman Abdullahi Bego quoted Gaidam as saying that people from violence-hit Yobe, Adamawa and Borno sates needed explanation from President Goodluck Jonathan on the spate of attacks despite a state of emergency.
He said, “The governor has noted that this is the fifth time in a little over one year when our schools in Yobe State were brutally attacked and students killed. There was Government Secondary School, Damaturu; Government Secondary School Mamudo; College of Agriculture, Gujba; Federal Government College, Buni-Yadi; and now Government Comprehensive School, Potiskum.
“Governor Gaidam deeply regrets that all of these dastardly attacks took place under a climate of Emergency Rule declared in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa States by President Goodluck Jonathan.
“In theory, the Emergency Rule Declaration was a signal that more vigorous steps would be taken to protect the lives and property of people in the affected States and deploy the full might of the federal government to restore peace and security. Unfortunately, this has not been fully the case. Instead of forcing insurgents and criminals to flee; the insurgents are forcing innocent people to flee and making life miserable for everyone.
“Governor Gaidam believes that President Goodluck Jonathan has a very urgent responsibility to explain to the people of Yobe State and people all across the affected States why murderous and callous insurgent and criminal attacks are still on the rise despite the State of Emergency.
“The governor also believes that it is not just enough for the Federal Government to condemn the almost daily rounds of violence. He believes urgent action must be taken right now to restore a fast-waning public confidence by doing whatever it takes to stop the escalating violence.”
Gaidam ordered for the immediate closure of all public schools around Potiskum until a full review of the situation is undertaken. He also asked hospitals to provide free medical support to victims of the bombing.
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