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Troops Deployed Against Pro-Biafra Movement

UN Integrated Regional Information Network, 4 December 2000

Lagos—Several people were injured at the weekend in the southeastern town of Okigwe after the Nigerian government deployed soldiers to curb the activities of a secessionist movement allegedly usurping law enforcement duties in the area, local residents said on Monday.

They said the heavily armed soldiers, who arrived in Okigwe on Friday, were apparently pursuing Ralph Uwazurike, leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). His followers were said to have been enforcing the sale of fuel at controlled prices.

The soldiers came in several trucks and were shooting in the air, beating and injuring people, Mark Nwoko, an Okigwe trader who witnessed the incident, told IRIN on his arrival in Lagos on Monday. In fact, I heard that a number of people had been killed and houses destroyed.

A privately-owned newspaper, 'Thisday', reported that two people were killed by the soldiers, who allegedly also ransacked a popular hotel frequented by Uwazurike and manhandled his aged father.

The troops from the 34 Field Artillery Brigade were said to have been called in following a clash earlier in the week between police and MASSOB supporters who had been trying to enforce official prices at petrol stations in the area.

MASSOB has been campaigning for the revival of the short-lived Biafra Republic, whose declaration in 1967 with the support of the Igbos - one of Nigeria's three main ethnic groups - led to a three-year-old civil war during which at least one million people were killed. The secessionists were defeated in 1970.