ABUJA, May 17 (AP) — Gunmen attacked a convoy of U.S. embassy staff in southeastern Nigeria on Tuesday, killing two local staff and two police officers, police said.
According to police, the assailants opened fire on the convoy along a main road in the Ogbaru local government area of Anambra state, one of the epicenters of separatist violence in the region. “The hooligans killed two police mobile unit agents and two consulate staff and set their bodies and vehicles on fire,” Anambra police spokesman Tochukwu Ikenga said.
Ikenga added that a joint team of security forces was deployed to the scene but only arrived after the attacker escaped with two other police officers and a driver. He said there were no U.S. citizens on the trip.
The State Department said its personnel in Nigeria were cooperating with national security agencies investigating Tuesday’s attack. “The safety of our personnel is always of paramount importance, and we take extensive precautions when organizing site visits,” the State Department said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear the nature of the trip of the staff of the U.S. embassy in Anambra, or how many people were in the convoy. Ikenga said it was regrettable that “such a convoy or anyone involved would enter the state without recourse to the police or any security agency in the area”.
The attack in the town of Atani, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the state capital, further raised concerns about the safety of residents and travelers amid the separatist violence that has rampant in southeastern Nigeria in recent years.
Authorities have blamed the violence on a separatist group called the Biafra Indigenous, which is leading a campaign for the region to secede from the West African country and form an independent state. Separatists have become more violent over the past few years as they continue to demand a referendum and since their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, went on trial on terrorism charges.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has rejected a referendum, insisting that the unification of Africa’s most populous country – and the continent’s largest economy – is non-negotiable. (Associated Press)
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