Nigeria Separatist Protesters Clash With Police in Onitsha City

  • Police say protesters burned a mosque, killed a policeman
  • Protesters demanding release of jailed separtist leader

Protesters in Nigeria’s southeastern city of Onitsha demanding the release of a jailed pro Biafran-independence leader, killed a policeman, burned down a mosque and attacked vehicles, according to the police, while a separatist organization said nine were killed by security forces.

“People operating under the aegis of Indigenous People of Biafra and Massob have held people to ransom for two days by blocking highways,” Okechukwu Ali, Anambra state’s police spokesman, said by phone from the state capital, Awka. “They attacked a policeman, collected his AK-47 and shot him dead.”

At least nine people were shot dead by a combined team of police and soldiers that tried to disperse protesters from the streets of Onitsha, IPOB said on its Radio Biafra website. Police are still collecting information on casualties and will give more details later, Anambra police spokesman Ali said.

Tensions have been rising in Nigeria’s oil-rich southeast after IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu was detained by the state security police in October on allegations of committing treasonable offenses. Africa’s largest crude producer fought a 30-month civil war from 1967 to 1970, when the southeastern region, home to the ethnic Igbo group, one of Nigeria’s main three, made a failed attempt to create an independent state of Biafra.

Between one million and three million people were estimated to have died in the war, which broke out following a coup in 1966 led by mainly ethnic Igbo junior officers against a government dominated by northern Muslims. That prompted a revenge coup six months later and the massacre of tens of thousands of Igbos across northern Nigeria.

Groups including IPOB and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra have renewed campaigns for the region’s independence from Nigeria after former military ruler and northern Muslim, Muhammadu Buhari, won presidential elections in March.