This will be a quick post, as I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the attacks (apparently around 8:30am this morning) on Bayero University, Kano–but I feel a little duty bound to post something about it.
I know the campus very well and have attended the churches (both Catholic and Protestant) that meet in lecture theatres on Sundays. The place is dear to me, and it is devastating to think about what happened this morning.
According to Vanguard and Nigerian University News, among those confirmed dead are Professor Jerome Ayodele of the Chemistry Department and Professor Andrew Leo of the Library Science Department. I believe I had met Professor Ayodele once, after I had attended one of the services and he introduced himself to me. Premium News, which ran a running commentary of updates and eye witness reports of varying credibility throughout the day, also reported that Sylvester Adah of the Bursary was confirmed dead. The latest figures from Vanguard are 20 people dead. Leadership said 18. By 11pm, Associated Press was reporting at least 16 dead in Kano and 22 wounded. They also reported another church bombing of a COCIN church in Maiduguri, though that seems to be getting much less press than the other attacks. [UPDATE 30 April 2012: Here is a brief article from Daily Trust that gives more details on the Maiduguri attack, which apparently killed five. ]
Friends I spoke to on campus told me this morning that the area had been cordoned off, so they were not sure of what exactly had happened. But they had heard all of the explosions and gunfire and sounded shaken up. One friend I called, who stays on campus, told me that he saw the attackers as they passed by on their way out after shooting up the churches. They exited out of one of the side gates that is kept locked. He said they sped past on motorcycles and once they got to the gate, shot the lock off of it with their guns. A journalist friend who had come to Kano for the weekend with her family after the bombings of This Day newspaper in Abuja was staying in a neighborhood behind the university. She called me on the road back to Abuja, said the sound was terrible–that her relatives across town in Fagge could hear the attack.
What has not yet been clear to me is how the attackers, who most news articles claim entered the campus on motorcycles, were able to enter the campus. Normally, the security on the Old Site has been quite tight. Even before any of the attacks on Kano, the BUK security on the old campus would check the boots of cars and would not allow motorcycles to enter unless the guards were familiar with the driver or passenger. One of my friends who works on campus speculated that they were allowed on because they were riding on private motorcycles and were not yan acaba, commercial motorcyclists. He also said that they entered with a car. I also wonder how they got all of the weapons on campus. Did they bring them in that morning on the motorcycles or had they smuggled them in earlier and have them hidden somewhere on campus?
Witness statements in the Tribune (that I found after I wrote the previous paragraph) seem to answer some of my questions but raise others, such as how they were able to escape without their motorcycles.
A source, who preferred anonymity, said the gunmen came through the backgate on the new campus road of the university and immediately went straight to the lecture theatre and the sport complex, threw IEDs and fired their guns at the same time.
However, when the security men of the BUK got wind of the attack, they locked up the gate to prevent the gunmen from escaping. The gunmen, however, were said to have forced the gate open with bullets and escaped.
At the time of filing this report, the three motorcycles used for the operation by the gunmen were still at the place they were abandoned, while the students who sustained injuries had been admitted to the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital.
Witnesses said the attackers arrived on motorbikes and a Honda car at about 9am, and hurled small homemade explosives into the two centres before opening fire on fleeing worshippers.
Witnesses told Daily Trust that the attackers came through the university’s main gate and escaped on motorbikes through a smaller gate.
I haven’t yet seen any reports on organisations claiming responsibility for the attacks. But Boko Haram, who prefer to be known as Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, claimed responsibility for the bombings of This Day and other media offices this past Thursday.
Boko Haram spokesman Abul Qaqa’s claim that “We have just started this new campaign against the media and we will not stop here, we will hit the media hard since they have refused to listen to our plea for them to be fair in their reportage” and the recent attacks on Gombe State University and now Bayero University speak to a worrisome new trend of attacks. (A caveat to this is that I don’t think either the Gombe State University attack or the BUK attack has yet been claimed by Boko Haram, but whether they are the doings of the group spoken for by Abul Qaqa or not, they are worrisome.) With attacks on government, military, international institutions, churches, mosques, primary schools, and now on media and universities, it seems as if the target has simply become almost all aspects of life in the north. (see these links for partial timelines of attacks from Irin and Punch)
Allah ya kiyaye!