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Friday 19 January 2018

Nigeria schools closed in protest

Red cross officials inspect a vehicle at the scene of Tuesday's car bomb explosions in Jos, Nigeria (AP)
Red cross officials inspect a vehicle at the scene of Tuesday's car bomb explosions in Jos, Nigeria (AP)

Many schools in Nigeria have closed to protest against the abduction of schoolgirls by Boko Haram, the government's failure to rescue them and the killing of scores of teachers by the Islamic extremists.

Families of some of the kidnapped girls and their supporters are also planning a march to the presidential villa in Abuja, the capital, to protest against the failure to rescue the girls more than five weeks after they were captured.

Outside the Aso Rock presidential complex, police in riot gear and fire engines with water cannon are waiting for the protesters.

It comes two days after at least 130 people were killed in bomb blasts in the city of Jos, with many of those killed unable to be identified due to the severity of the explosions and subsequent fire.

University of Jos student leader Dickson Odeh was among a group of people searching for the bodies of several students in hospital mortuaries.

"It's horrible," he said in front of the Jos University Teaching Hospital. "Many bodies are burned beyond recognition."

Traumatised family members at the morgue said they are trying to get police reports and hospital paperwork that would allow them to take the bodies of loved ones for burial.

Meanwhile, an earthmover and street cleaners are removing debris from the marketplace and bus station where the massive explosions brought down buildings.

Yesterday, officials said they recovered seven more bodies and five wounded victims died in hospital, raising the toll to at least 130 dead.

That would make it the deadliest bombing yet committed by the Boko Haram extremists, though they have not claimed responsibility.

The militants have claimed the mass abduction of more than 300 schoolgirls on April 15 whom they are threatening to sell into slavery. Fifty-three escaped on their own.

The school shut-down has been organised by the Nigerian Union of Teachers, which said the extremists have killed 173 of its members in recent years. The union also railed against ongoing insecurity that has teachers as well as students going to schools filled with fear.

US President Barack Obama announced yesterday that Washington has sent 80 military personnel to neighbouring Chad to help expand the search for the schoolgirls using drones. Manned US aircraft are also searching the area from a base in Niger.

Today, a US military spokesman said the 80 personnel deployed to Chad are from the air force and have already begun their mission.

Chuck Prichard, a spokesman at the US military's Africa command in Germany, said the 80 personnel were previously stationed in the United States.

Mr Obama told Congress yesterday that the personnel would help with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Press Association

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