Ethnic tension in student election may have played a role in massacre at polytechnic in northeast Nigeria

Ethnic tension may have played a role in killing of 26 people at polytechnic in Nigeria

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 4:43am


One by one, the gunmen called out the names of students of a mixed Christian and Muslim polytechnic in northeast Nigeria before shooting them or slitting their throats.

When they were done, 26 people were dead, including 22 students, two guards and a retired soldier.

The motive for the early morning attack at the off-campus student housing complex for the polytechnic in the town of Mubi was unclear. But some officials suggested the massacre may have been linked to a recent student election.

The military in Mubi last week carried out a high-profile raid against Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which has been waging a deadly insurgency.

A police spokesman, Mohammed Ibrahim, said 19 of the slain students were from Federal Polytechnic Mubi, while three were from a nearby health technology school.

A relief official said 15 were wounded and taken to hospital. The military had taken over the area in the town, located near the border with Cameroon.

"The attackers knew their targets," Ibrahim said. "They were calling out names of their targets in each house they entered, and once the target identified himself, he would be shot dead. We strongly suspect an inside operation."

He added that some victims' throats were slit.

The suggestion that the killings were linked to the student election, however, raised questions over how and why the dispute would have turned so violent. There were suggestions of ethnic tension between the mainly Muslim Hausas and predominately Christian Igbos involved in the vote.

Violence has erupted between student gangs in the past in Nigeria, but it is not known to have previously led to a massacre on such a scale.

A spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency said reports indicated some of the victims were candidates in the polls.

"The crisis in Mubi is suspected to have been fuelled by campus politics after an election at the Federal Polytechnic," said the agency's Yushau Shuaib.

Abdulkarim Bello of the Red Cross said: "They were holding elections in the Federal Polytechnic and unknown gunmen just entered and sprayed people with bullets."