Kenya Attack: Are schools the Newest Terrorist Targets?

Are schools the newest terrorist targets?

Details about the attack in Kenya are still unfolding. But it’s becoming clear that this is a monumental tragedy. Over 140 people have been reportedly killed. Mostly students.

This attack on a school is sadly part of a new terrorist front. Over the past year, there has been a marked increase in the number of spectacular attacks on educational institutions from radical terrorist groups.

In 2012, Boko Haram launched a campaign targeting schools, announcing it on YouTube. According to a contemporaneous report from April that year, “so far this year 14 schools have been burnt down in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, northern Nigeria, forcing over 7,000 children out of formal education and pushing down enrollment rates in an already ill-educated region.

Their attacks only got worse over time. In July 2013, Boko Haram attacked a secondary school in Yobe state, Nigeria killing 42 people, mostly students. And in november 2014 a suicide bomber disguised as a student killed 47 people in an attack on a school. And then, of course, there was the mass kidnapping of 200 school girls exactly one year ago this month.

The appeal of launching terrorist attacks on school children reaches far beyond Nigeria, though. In December 2014 militants attacked a school in Peshawar, Pakistan killing 145 people, including over 130 children. The attack was apparently carried out by foreign nationals. But the Pakistani Taliban has very clearly has used violence and intimidation to undermine the educational opportunities of children–including girls who go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now, al Shebaab has apparently decided to set its sites on school children. This is both an individual tragedy for the people of Kenya and a stark reminder that politically motivated terrorists these days believe its in their strategic interests to kill school children en masse.