An assailant on Tuesday fired a heavy weapon at an Islamic school in the city of Jos, killing at least one person in 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. Initial reports had suggested a local government building was the target.
“An Islamic school was the target of the attack,” said Pam Ayuba, the spokesman for the governor of Plateau State, where Jos is the capital.
Ayuba said he was at the scene with military and police, who all confirmed that one young person died, explaining that the victim was not a student at the school, but a bystander.
A resident of the Kerana neighbourhood where the attack took place said a lone attacker “dressed in red” stood on the street outside the school and fired a heavy weapon.
“The missile deflected and hit the wall of the school, killing (the young person),” resident Murtala Abdullahi told AFP.
Ayuba and other residents described the weapon as “a rocket launcher,” but the military and police were not able to immediately identify the type of weapon fired.
A military spokesman for Plateau, Captain Salihu Mustapha, confirmed the attack, saying that “someone opened fire on some innocents,” adding that “one of the bullets hit a child” who died.
Ayuba charged that the “attack is a deliberate effort to distract the security services from the ongoing operations.”
Tension is high in Plateau state after the military said it planned 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.
Mustapha told AFP on Monday that hundreds have reportedly fled from several areas expected to be targeted by the military operations.
The Fulani pastoralists have long-standing land rights grievances against Plateau state’s mainly Christian leaders.
Jos has also been attacked several times by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, responsible for scores of attacks across northern and central Nigeria since the middle of 2009.
Aside from inter-communal violence involving the Fulani, Jos has for several years seen sporadic clashes between Muslim and Christian groups, which have left thousands dead.
Plateau state is in Nigeria’s so-called “Middle Belt,” on the dividing line between the mainly Christian south and majority Muslim north in Africa’s most populous country.