The raid occurred at about 2.00 am and targeted the Federal Government College in the town of Buni Yadi in Yobe State and bore the hallmarks of a similar attack last September in which 40 died.
The attackers reportedly hurled explosives into student residential buildings, sprayed gunfire into rooms and hacked a number students to death.
A senior medical source at the Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital in Yobe’s capital Damaturu said the gunmen only targeted male students and that female students were “spared”.
“So far, 43 bodies have been brought (from the college) and are lying at the morgue,” said the source, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to discuss death tolls.
The state’s police chief, Sanusi Rufai, who confirmed the attack and had given an earlier death toll of 29, was headed to Buni Yadi, roughly 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Damaturu, with Governor Ibrahim Geidam to assess the damage.
Damaturu resident Babagoni Musa told AFP that four ambulances carrying dead bodies drove past his shop, which falls on the road from Buni Yadi.
“They had tree branches on them which is a sign used here to signify a corpse is in a vehicle,” he said.
People whose relatives were studying at the college had surrounded the morgue and were desperately seeking information about those killed, forcing the military to take control of the building to restore calm, the hospital source said.