Nigerian police said on Wednesday they had arrested many suspects following a massacre at a student housing area that left at least 40 people dead, with victims shot or their throats slit.
The raid in the early hours of Tuesday near a polytechnic university shook the town of Mubi in Nigeria’s volatile northeast, where Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has carried out scores of previous attacks.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called the gruesome off-campus attack “sad and shocking” and ordered an investigation, but its motives remained unclear, with some officials suggesting it may have been linked to a recent student election.
“We have made several arrests — in fact we have arrested many suspects in connection with the killing,” Adamawa state police spokesman Mohammed Ibrahim said.
A school official said on condition of anonymity that most of those arrested were students, including those seeking to flee Mubi.
Police have given an official death toll of 25, saying at least 22 victims were students. The school official said that the death toll was at least 40.
According to Ibrahim, the attackers knew their victims and called them out by name in a student housing area off-campus of Federal Polytechnic Mubi, an ethnically mixed school with several thousand students.
The suggestion that the killings were linked to the student election raised questions over how and why the dispute would have turned so violent. There were suggestions of ethnic tensions between the mainly Muslim Hausas and predominately Christian Igbos involved in the vote, and a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency said some of the victims were candidates.
However, rights activist expert on religious violence in northern Nigeria Shehu Sani said investigators should first concentrate on the role potentially played by Boko Haram.
“There is no student rivalry in the history of Nigeria that has ever led to this kind of massacre,” Sani said.