Burn schools, kill teachers, not kids:Boko Haram leader

AP, LAGOS, Nigeria

Mon, Jul 15, 2013 - Page 6

Shaking a finger while cradling an assault rifle, the bearded leader of Nigeria’s extremist Islamic sect threatened to burn down more schools and kill teachers. However, he denies his fighters are killing children.

In a new video released on Saturday, Islamic radical Abubakar Shekau said he “fully supports” attacks on several schools in northeastern Nigeria in recent weeks.

The UN Children’s Fund says at least 48 students and seven teachers have been killed since last month, with some burned alive in a dormitory this month.

“We support the work they did at the school, at Mamudo and Damaturu, and other attacks on other schools,” said Shekau, who wore military fatigues in the video. “We are going to burn down the schools, if they are not Islamic religious schools for Allah.”

However, Shekau insisted his fighters do not kill children.

“We don’t touch small children, we only burn the schools,” he said. “Our religion does not permit us to touch small children and women, we don’t kill children.”

However, he said his fighters would attack teachers.

“School teachers who are teaching Western education? We will kill them, we will kill them,” he said, wagging his finger.

Shekau is the leader of the extremist group Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language. There are also splinter groups, so it was not clear if he was trying to distance his group from assaults targeting children.

Attacks on schools have continued although thousands of troops have deployed in northeastern Nigeria to put down the Islamic extremists’ violent campaign which poses the greatest threat in years to the security of Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on May 14 in the three northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

In the video, received by reporters through intermediaries, Shekau also denied he is negotiating a peace agreement with the Nigerian government.

“We will not enter into any agreement with non-believers or the Nigerian government,” Shekau said in his native Hausa.

“The Koran teaches that we must shun democracy, we must shun Western education, we must shun the constitution,” he said.

At the end, he speaks in English to denounce the West, accusing it of trying to destroy Islam and working “to tactically make the Koran insignificant and unimportant.”