Nigerian Separatist Group Says Troops Killed 40 Protesters

  • Soldiers fired at civilians during street march, group says
  • Police spokesman says he can’t confirm casualty figure

A Nigerian separatist group campaigning for independence in the country’s southeast said troops killed more than 40 unarmed protesters on Monday in the city of Onitsha.

Supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra who turned out in large numbers to mark the anniversary of the failed declaration of the Biafra Republic on May 30, 1967, were fired upon by security forces, IPOB said in a report on its website.

Okechukwu Ali, the police spokesman in Anambra state, which covers Onitsha, said by phone he was unable to confirm the figures. “We struggled to ward off surging youths as hoodlums unleashed mayhem, but I don’t have any record of casualties for now,” he said. Nigeria’s defense spokesman Rabe Abubakar didn’t answer two calls to his mobile phone.

Revenge Coup

Africa’s most populous country fought a 30-month civil war from 1967 to 1970 after the oil-rich southeastern region tried to break off and create the independent state of Biafra. As many as three million people are believed to have died in the war, which was prompted by a 1966 coup led mainly by ethnic Igbo officers against a government dominated by northern Muslims. That led to 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 renewed campaigns for the region’s independence after Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim, won presidential elections last year. IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu was detained by the state security police in October on allegations of committing treasonable offenses.

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