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'Horrific Attack' On School In Nigeria; Dozens Dead

There's very disturbing news from Nigeria:

"At least 29 pupils and a teacher have been killed in a pre-dawn attack by suspected Islamists on a school in northeastern Nigeria, reports say." (BBC News)

The BBC's Will Ross, reporting from Lagos, adds that "it sounds like a horrific attack." Survivors say the gunmen set fire to buildings. Some of the students were burned alive, he reports, while "others were shot as they tried to run away."

Reuters, which is reporting that 27 students and one teacher were killed, says "it was the deadliest of three attacks on schools since the military launched an offensive in May to try to crush Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgent group whose nickname translates as 'Western education is sinful' in the northern Hausa language."

As the BBC adds, "Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it 'haram,' or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society."

In February 2012, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston noted that:

"The U.S. intelligence community is turning its focus to groups like al-Qaida's arm in Yemen or Islamic militias in Somalia such as al-Shabab. More recently, in Nigeria, a local separatist group called Boko Haram has taken aim at the U.S. It released a video message this week that called on jihadis to focus on the United States; their leader said President Obama was waging a war against Muslims.

"This is the kind of clarion call that al-Qaida used to sound. Experts are quick to say that it is unclear that Boko Haram has the reach to launch any attack against the U.S., but intelligence officials are watching the group all the same."

As Eric Guttschuss of Human Rights Watch told All Things Considered this past April, though:

"The International Criminal Court has opened up a preliminary examination and they have found that crimes against humanity have likely been carried out by Boko Haram, as well as serious human rights violations by the government security services."

Also earlier this year, Human Rights Watch reported that:

"Attacks by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram and abuses by government security forces led to spiraling violence across northern and central Nigeria. This violence, which first erupted in 2009, has claimed more than 3,000 lives. The group, which seeks to impose a strict form of Sharia, or Islamic law, in northern Nigeria and end government corruption, launched hundreds of attacks in 2012 against police officers, Christians, and Muslims who cooperate with the government or oppose the group.

"In the name of ending Boko Haram's threat to Nigeria's citizens, government security forces have responded with a heavy-hand."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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