ABUJA, Nigeria –
A student was beaten and burned to death by fellow students in north-west Nigeria on Thursday after being accused of making a blasphemous post on social media, witnesses and police said.
Deborah Samuel was killed at Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto state after she was accused of “writing a social media post that … blasphemed the Prophet Muhammad,” according to a police statement. Two students were arrested in connection with the incident.
Authorities also closed the school indefinitely to calm tense nerves in a part of Nigeria where residents have in the past reacted violently to acts or comments deemed anti-Islamic.
Samuel’s assassination sparked outrage and shock among many Nigerians on social media.
The incident underscores the deep religious tensions in Africa’s most populous country, which is almost evenly split between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north. An atheist was sentenced to 24 years in prison in April for a social media post that a court in northern Kano state found him blasphemous against Islam.
Witnesses said Samuel, a sophomore whose age was not disclosed, was immediately attacked by her fellow students after she criticized a religion-related post on the students’ WhatsApp group.
“She was angry at how Muslims spoke about Islamic matters in this WhatsApp group, which prompted her to make some un-Islamic statements against the Prophet Mohammed,” said Basharu Guyawa Isa, a resident and human rights activist in Sokoto.
The school board quickly deployed security guards to protect Samuel, but they were overwhelmed by angry youths.
“Students forcibly removed the victim from the security room where she was hidden by the school authorities, killed her and burned the building,” Sokoto Police spokesman Sanusi Abubakar said.
A video of the incident, posted to social media and confirmed by The Associated Press, showed Samuel lying on the ground as she was stoned and boarded. The young men who surrounded them then threw tires at them and set them on fire.
Abubakar said two students were arrested in connection with the incident while an investigation led by Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal was underway.
“The suspects in the viral video on Twitter have been discovered and will be (identified) soon,” he said.
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