By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS (AA) - Nigerian security operatives on Monday clashed with hundreds of Igbo secessionist protesters in the country's southeastern city of Onitsha, reportedly resulting in multiple deaths and arrests of activists.
Spokesman for the secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Emma Powerful claimed that up to 30 members of the group had been shot dead following a protest commemorating 49 years since the botched declaration of the Biafra Republic.
"We were holding a peaceful demonstration to commemorate and celebrate Biafra when a combined team of policemen and soldiers shot at our members. We lost 30 members while several others were injured," Powerful told reporters in Onitsha, commercial hub of the southeastern Anambra state.
He said dozens of their members had also been arrested.
Jonathan Anabah, a resident of the commercial town, confirmed the violent clashes to Anadolu Agency.
"There were clashes following a face-off between the security operatives and the IPOB members. Police said they did not obtain a permit to protest and insisted they disperse. This later led to a violent confrontation. A soldier died while a number of the protesters also got killed," according to Anabah, a trader.
Police spokesman in the state Ali Okechukwu confirmed the incident but remained silent when asked if anyone had died.
"We made some arrests but I can't give any details at the moment. Security agencies tried to maintain peace and order but we were attacked. Arrests have been made and we will prosecute as appropriate," he told Anadolu Agency by phone.
Anadolu Agency also learned of arrest of some persons in Owerri, the capital city of southeastern Imo, where IPOB had also held similar protest commemorating the failed secession of Biafra from Nigeria on May 30,1967.
Championed by the late military officer Odumegu Ojukwu, ethnic Igbo people sought to carve out an independent state from Nigeria after alleging discrimination against and massacre of their men in other parts of the country.
The IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu, who is now in detention answering to treason charges, seeks to revive the Biafra agitation.