The leader of Nigeria’s Islamist militant group Boko Haram has called for more attacks against schools, describing western education as a “plot against Islam”, in a video released days after his fighters killed 46 students in an assault on a dorm.
In the 15-minute recording released at the weekend, Abubakar Shekau said schools would continue to be targeted “until our last breath”.
“Teachers who teach western education? We will kill them! We will kill them in front of their students, and tell the students to henceforth study the Qur’an,” he said, gesticulating energetically while dressed in military fatigues and a traditional hat.
Shekau denied that his fighters killed children. “Our religion does not permit us to touch small children and women, we don’t kill children,” he said, reading from sheets of paper as he cradled a Kalashnikov. He also dismissed talk of a ceasefire. Last week the government said it had signed a deal with Shekau’s second-in-command.
With its ability to launch attacks reduced by a military crackdown, Boko Haram is redrawing the battle lines in Nigeria’s four-year insurgency by going after softer targets. A recent spate of attacks on schools is part of a two-pronged strategy that plays up the extremists’ ideology against western institutions while also providing a stream of potential new recruits as frightened parents pull their children out of education.
Unschooled and unemployed children are increasingly being recruited – sometimes forcibly – to fill the ranks of Boko Haram and unleash violence against their peers, the Guardian has learned. Witnesses say many are plied with dates stuffed with tramadol – a narcotic used to tranquilise horses – before being sent on missions.