POTISKUM, Nigeria -- Islamic militants attacked a boarding school before dawn Saturday, dousing a dormitory in fuel and lighting it ablaze as students slept, survivors said. At least 30 people were killed in the deadliest attack yet on schools in Nigeria's embattled northeast.
Authorities blamed the violence on Boko Haram, a radical group whose name means "Western education is sacrilege." The militants have been behind a series of recent attacks on schools in the region, including one in which gunmen opened fire on children taking exams in a classroom.
"We were sleeping when we heard gunshots. When I woke up, someone was pointing a gun at me," Musa Hassan, 15, told The Associated Press of the assault on Government Secondary School in Mamudo village in Yobe state.
He put his arm up in defense, and sustained a gunshot that blew off all four fingers on his right hand, the one he uses to write. His life was spared when the militants moved on after shooting him.
Hassan recalled how the gunmen came armed with jerrycans of fuel that they used to torch the school's administrative block and one of the dormitories.
"They burned the children alive," he said, the horror showing in his wide eyes.
He and teachers at the morgue said dozens of children from the 1,200-student school escaped into the bush, but have not been seen since.
By Saturday afternoon, thousands of students had fled several boarding schools around Potiskum, leaving deserted campuses in fear of more attacks.
Former colonizer Britain condemned the "senseless atrocity," with Mark Simmonds, Minister for Africa, promising his country "will do what it can to help Nigeria tackle terrorism."
Islamic militants from Boko Haram and breakaway groups have killed more than 1,600 civilians in suicide bombings and other attacks since 2010, according to an Associated Press count.