Nigeria schools close to protest government inaction

 

JOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Many schools around Nigeria closed Thursday to protest the abductions of schoolgirls by Boko Haram, the government's failure to rescue them and the killings of scores of teachers by the Islamic extremists, as family and friends searched mortuaries and hospitals for people missing since two huge bombs blew up two days ago in the central city of Jos.

Families of some of the kidnapped girls and their supporters also planned to march Thursday afternoon to the presidential villa in Abuja, the capital, to protest 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 were waiting for the protesters.

At least 130 people were killed in the explosions in Jos on Tuesday and some may never be identified. Many bodies are too disfigured by fire and others were blown apart, University of Jos student leader Dickson Odeh told The Associated Press after his group searched several hospital mortuaries. He said they were able to identify the bodies of seven students, some only from ID papers on mutilated bodies, but still are searching for others.

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

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

An earthmover and street cleaners were removing debris Thursday from the marketplace and bus station where the massive explosions brought down storied buildings. On Wednesday, officials said they recovered seven mutilated bodies and body parts, and five wounded victims died in the hospitals, 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 shutdown was organized 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.

Boko Haram - the nickname means "Western education is forbidden" - blames Western influences for endemic corruption that keeps most Nigerians in poverty despite the country's wealth of oil, minerals, agriculture and thriving industries like Nollywood that produce more movies than any in the world including Hollywood and Bollywood.

National and international outrage forced President Goodluck Jonathan to accept international help, mainly technical, intelligence-gathering and surveillance expertise, from several countries this month in the bid to rescue the kidnapped girls.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. has sent 80 military personnel to neighboring Chad to help expand the search for them using drones. Manned U.S. aircraft also are searching the area from a base in neighboring Niger.

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Associated Press writers Andrew Drake in Abuja and Michelle Faul in Lagos contributed to this report.

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