In a video uploaded to the Internet, Boko Haram's purported leader Abubakar Shekau praises attacks on Western-style schools.
(BOKO HARAM HANDOUT) - The purported leader of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram praised attacks on schools offering Western-style education in a video uploaded to the Internet on Saturday (July 14).
The video appeared after Boko Haram militants killed 46 students in four school attacks in Nigeria in less than a month, including at Mamudo and Damaturu government schools.
Abubakar Shekau denied ordering the latest killings, saying Boko Haram does not itself kill small children, but he praised attacks on schools.
"We support the attack on the schools in Mamudo and Damaturu and all the attacks in the school of western education; we had promised that we will burn down schools because they are not of God and the prophets; they (the schools) are established to fight against the religion of Islam. But we don't harm children, little boys and girls, our religion does not permit us to kill little children, we don't kill women and old people except for women who disguise and work for secret security agency," Shekau says in the video, dressed in desert fatigues and cradling an assault rifle.
In the last of the four attacks, at Mamudo school near Potiskum in Nigeria's northeast, 22 students and a teacher were killed there on July 6.
Boko Haram, a nickname which translates roughly as "Western education is sinful", formed around a decade ago as a clerical movement opposed to Western influence, which the sect's founder, Mohammed Yusuf, said was poisoning young minds against Islam.
The rebels are fighting to revive a medieval Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria.
Yet security forces and politicians were the main targets of the armed revolt it started after Yusuf's killing in a 2009 military crackdown that left 800 people dead.
Before June, there had been only a handful of attacks on the Western-style schools it so despises.
An offensive against the insurgents since President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three remote northern states in May, wresting control of the far northeast from Boko Haram and pushing its fighters into hiding, has changed that.
Shekau, in his video message, denied that the group had been pushed into negotiations.
"On the suggestion that that we negotiated ceasefire with the government of Nigeria-- it is a lie. How can we negotiate with a government that is corrupt? A government that is using the book of pagans to run the government? This is a blatant lie."
Schools are a devastating target for an impoverished region suffering a high rate of illiteracy
Recently, Boko Haram has splintered into several factions, including some with ties to al Qaeda's Saharan wing, which analysts say operate more or less independently, despite Shekau's loose claim to authority over them.