LAGOS: Separatist rebels killed four Nigerian police officers and two civilians during a gun battle in the country’s southeast, according to police.

The incident occurred on Friday morning in the Ngor-Okpala area of Imo State, where the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) separatist group and its military wing, the Eastern Security Network, are active.

In the last two years, attacks blamed on IPOB have murdered dozens of police personnel in Nigeria’s southeastern states, where the group advocates for a separate state for the ethnic Igbo people.

“Four police officers attached to Area Command Ngor-Okpala paid the ultimate price after engaging in a shoot out with unsuspecting IPOB and ESN militia dressed in black and red regalia,” Imo state police stated in a statement.
“A miscreant’s stray bullet killed two civilians.”

IPOB has consistently denied being responsible for attacks on police, local government offices, and electoral commission facilities.

Separatism is fraught in Nigeria, where the declaration of an independent Biafra Republic by Igbo army leaders in the southeast in 1967 sparked a three-year civil war that killed over one million people.

Africa’s most populous country is nearly evenly divided between a mostly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south, with scores more ethnic groups spread over the continent.

Separatist violence is just one of the security challenges President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu has as the armed forces fight a 14-year-old Islamist insurgency in the northeast and heavily armed bandit groups in the northwest and central provinces.

Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos, takes office next month after winning a February election marred by technical issues, delays, and opposition charges of widespread vote manipulation.





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