- Published on Tuesday, 17 July 2012 18:00
- Written by Elombah.com
A 10-year-old boy has died after a rocket was fired at a school in Buruku, near the Nigerian city of Jos, Plateau state, but missed and hit a nearby building, Army officials say. The school authorities say the boy was not a pupil at the large co-educational institution owned by the city's Muslim community.
Witnesses described a man dressed in red firing what appeared to be a rocket launcher at the school.
"An Islamic school was the target of the attack," said Pam Ayuba, the spokesman for the governor of Plateau State, where Jos is the capital.
Police spokesman Emmanuel Abuh said the assailant fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) from the Jero road that runs adjacent to the school and marks an informal dividing line between a Muslim and Christian neighbourhood in the southern part of Jos.
"A 10-year-old boy was hit on the head... and he died," said Abuh, adding that the attacker successfully fled the scene.
The victim was a bystander and not enrolled at the school, where students were studying for exams when they came under attack, according to locals.
A resident of the targeted area said a lone attacker stood on the street outside the school as he fired.
"The missile deflected and hit the wall of the school, killing" the boy, resident Murtala Abdullahi told AFP.
The school, Nurul Islam, is a seminary that combines secular, Western-style education with an Islamic curriculum.
Two weeks ago, a bomb discovered there was defused before it exploded, Abdullahi and other residents said.
Military spokesman Salihu Mustapha told AFP the school attack happened at 10:30 am (0930 GMT), adding that the ability of a civilian to obtain a military-grade weapon like an RPG was worrying.
"That is now something that we have to look into," he said. "It is not good at all."
Abdullahi told AFP that the attacker escaped into the nearby Christian neighbourhood, but officials could not confirm that account.
After the shooting, rival youth mobs set up barricades on the road but the military intervened before clashes erupted, Mustapha said.
The governor's spokesman charged that the "attack is a deliberate effort to distract the security services."
Initial reports had suggested a local government building near the school was the target.
Tension is high in Plateau state after the military revealed plans to launch campaigns to root out gunmen suspected of belonging to a mainly Muslim group of herdsmen accused of killing more than 100 people earlier this month.
The militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state, has also been behind various attacks over the past 18 months in Jos, mainly on churches.
Last week it said it had killed two politicians who were attending a funeral for people who died during communal violence in Plateau state.
Some 100 people were killed in attacks on villages inhabited by Christian Berom groups this month.
On Monday, the security forces agreed a deal with the Muslim Fulani community that the residents of five villages near Jos would temporarily move out to allow a 48-hour operation to flush out insurgents believed to be behind recent violence.
The military Special Task Force (STF) said this week it will clear out many of the villages affected by the violence this month to restore calm, but Fulani groups say this is a deliberate effort to drive them out of the region.
"This directive by the STF is a reflection that the federal government and its security agencies have fallen into the hands of the Plateau state government," said Ahmed Yandeh, secretary of the Mobgal Fulbe Development Association, a Fulani group.
"Plateau government's agenda has consistently been that of intimidating, killing of Fulbe, destruction of their livestock and properties," Yandeh added.
Analysts say the long-standing rivalries between communities stem from a dispute about who are the area's rightful inhabitants, tensions often whipped up by local politicians.
President Goodluck Jonathan has also accused Boko Haram of trying to stir up violence between Christian and Muslim groups.