MAIDUGURI Suspected Islamist militants opened fire on a school in Nigeria's northeastern city of Maiduguri on Tuesday, killing nine students, witnesses and a medical worker said, the second deadly attack on schools in three days.
Witness Ibrahim Mohammed said he was taking exams in a classroom at Ansarudeen School when gunmen stormed the building, opening fire at random.
"I saw five students sitting the exams killed on the spot. Four others were killed as they were entering the school premises," he said by telephone, still shaking with fear.
Mortuary attendant Alhaji Baba at the State Specialists morgue in Maiduguri told Reuters he counted nine corpses come in after the attack.
The military was not immediately available for comment.
Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates as "Western education is sinful" and is seen as the biggest security threat to Africa's top oil producer, has attacked several schools in the past.
Seven students, two teachers and two insurgents were killed when suspected Boko Haram militants attacked a school in the northeastern town of Damaturu on Sunday.
The two attacks have raised fears that a month-long offensive by government troops has merely pushed militants into hiding, from where they can still launch devastating operations.
Nigerian forces say their offensive has enabled them to wrest back control of the remote northeast from Boko Haram. They say they have destroyed key bases and arrested more than 150 suspected insurgents in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa - all covered by a state of emergency declared by President Goodluck Jonathan last month.
But critics of the military strategy, including several opposition politicians and some northern governors, will see the upsurge in violence as evidence the north's crisis cannot be solved by force alone.
In a separate attack, armed bandits attacked Kizera village in northwest Nigeria's Zamfara state on Thursday, killing at least 32 people, local police chief Usman Gwary said.
Insecurity in the north caused by the Boko Haram insurgency has been a boon for criminal gangs and rival ethnic militias with scores to settle, security sources say.
(Reporting by Lanre Ola and Ibrahim Mshelizza; Additional reporting by Isaac Abrak; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)