Nigeria army killed 150 separatists during peaceful rallies: Amnesty
Amnesty International says Nigeria’s security forces killed at least 150 supporters of a separatist group during peaceful anti-government protests in a one-year period in the African country.
The London-based rights organization said in a statement on Thursday that the fatalities occurred when the Nigerian army fired live ammunition, with little or no warning, to scatter the supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group during protests and gatherings between August 2015 and August 2016.
The human rights group further said that the Nigerian troops and police had used “arbitrary, abusive and excessive force to disrupt gatherings.”
“This reckless and trigger-happy approach to crowd control has caused at least 150 deaths, and we fear the actual total might be far higher,” said Makmid Kamara, the interim director of Amnesty International for Nigeria, who called on authorities to launch an investigation into the matter.
Kamara said the government’s deployment of troops during the protest rallies seemed “in large part to blame for this excessive bloodshed.”
In a 60-page report that accompanied the statement, Amnesty said the accusations had been based on interviews with 193 people, 87 videos and 122 photographs from the mentioned period.
In response, officials with Nigeria’s military and police forces denied the allegations, saying Amnesty was trying to tarnish their reputation.
Army spokesman Sani Usman claimed that the Biafra separatists, at a protest in May, had behaved violently, killing five policeman and attacking both military and police vehicles.
The IPOB movement was founded by Nnamdi Kanu, who is currently on trial on charges of treason and felony in a high-profile case in the country’s capital of Abuja.
In 1967, Kanu unilaterally declared independence for Nigeria’s Biafran State, which remained a breakaway region until 1970 and the cause of an ethnic conflict that left about one million people dead, many of them from starvation and disease, as Nigerian troops blockaded the self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra.
IPOB supporters have time and again staged protests across the country to demand his release and call for a breakaway state for the Igbo people, one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa.