A 10-year-old boy was killed Tuesday when an assailant fired a grenade at an Islamic school in the central Nigerian city of Jos, an area plagued by sectarian violence, officials and residents said.
Witnesses described a man dressed in red firing what appeared to be a rocket launcher at the school in the Bukuru area of Jos.
Residents and police said more weapons were fired after the initial attack, but there were no further casualties.
“An Islamic school was the target of the attack,” said Pam Ayuba, the spokesman for the governor of Plateau state, of which Jos is the capital.
Police spokesman Emmanuel Abuh said the assailant fired a rocket-propelled grenade from the road adjacent to the school that marks an informal dividing line between a Muslim and Christian neighbourhood in the southern part of Jos.
“A 10-year-old boy was hit on the head… and he died,” said Abuh, adding that the attacker fled the scene.
The victim was a bystander and not enrolled at the Nurul Islam school, where students were studying for exams when the attacker struck. The school is a seminary that combines secular Western-style education with an Islamic curriculum.
Two weeks ago, a bomb discovered there was defused before it exploded, residents said.
Murtala Abdullahi told AFP the lone attacker had escaped into the nearby Christian neighbourhood, but officials could not confirm that account.
Military spokesman Salihu Mustapha said the ability of a civilian to obtain a military-grade weapon like an RPG was worrying.
“That is now something that we have to look into,” he said.
After the shooting, rival youth mobs set up barricades on the road but the military intervened before clashes erupted, Mustapha said.
When the mobs dispersed unknown attackers fired two more grenades, targeting the military and a market but both landed in open space, residents said.
Abuh confirmed that at least one more grenade was fired but said no one was hurt and the assailant was not identified.
The governor’s spokesman charged that the school attack was “a deliberate effort to distract the security services.”
Tension is high in Plateau state after the military revealed plans to launch campaigns to root out gunmen suspected of belonging to a mainly Muslim group of herdsmen accused of killing more than 100 people earlier this month.
On July 7, gunmen suspected of belonging to the Fulani tribe stormed mainly Christian villages and killed more than 80 people.
Another 22 people, including two senior politicians, were killed the following day in an attack on the funeral of the victims, also blamed on the Fulani.
Fulani pastoralists have long-standing grievances against the state’s mainly Christian leaders, including disputes over land rights and claims of discrimination.
Jos has also been struck by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, responsible for scores of attacks in northern and central Nigeria since mid-2009.
Aside from violence involving the Fulani, Jos has for several years seen sporadic clashes between Muslim and Christian groups, which have left thousands of people dead.
Plateau state is in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” region, on the dividing line between the mainly Christian south and majority Muslim north in Africa’s most populous country.
Political and security leaders, including Governor Jonah Jang, held a meeting in Jos on Monday, declaring that “Plateau state is under siege” and urging more dialogue between religious leaders to stem the violence.