On January 16, 2017, two suicide attacks occurred on the campus of the University of Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria, killing at least four people, and injuring another fifteen.
According to reports, at around 5:15 am, guards shot a girl who was wearing a suicide belt as she attempted to enter the campus; the belt detonated, killing the roughly twelve-year old girl instantly. Shortly thereafter, a second bomber — a girl who witnesses variously described as a teenager, or as young as seven years old — entered a mosque on campus and detonated an explosive device as worshipers gathered for morning prayers, killing herself and at least two others. Among those killed was Professor Aliyu Mani, the university’s Director of Veterinary Services.
Security forces reportedly shot and killed a third suicide bomber — also a girl who was roughly twelve years old — near the university, before her vest could be detonated.
According to reports, an audio recording was released following the attacks, in which a person purporting to be Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader, claimed responsibility for the attack on the group’s behalf.
Scholars at Risk condemns this extreme, targeted, violent attack on the higher education space — and the use of children to carry it out — and sends condolences to the victims, their families and the entire University of Maiduguri community. In addition to the terrible loss of life and injuries, such attacks target the core values of the university, including academic freedom, the free exchange of ideas, institutional autonomy, and social responsibility. State authorities have a responsibility to safeguard these values by taking all reasonable steps to ensure the security of higher education communities and their members, including a responsibility to deter future attacks by investigating incidents and making every effort to hold perpetrators accountable, consistent with internationally recognized standards. Members of society similarly have a responsibility to help safeguard the higher education space, especially following incidents of such gross violence, by pressing demands to State authorities for greater protection and accountability, and by contributing to efforts to understand and reinforce principles of autonomy and academic freedom.
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