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Army’s weekend clash with IPOB bears similarities with 2015 clash with Shiites

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Army’s weekend clash with IPOB bears similarities with 2015 clash with Shiites

The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has said that his home in Afaraukwu, Abia state, was invaded by soldiers of the Nigerian Army yesterday. Their attempt to arrest him was however rebuffed by members of IPOB who formed a human shield, preventing the soldiers from gaining entry into their leader’s home.

“They wanted to bulldoze their way into the palace but IPOB members formed a human shield and resisted them. They wanted to break the shield and fired at three persons and wounded others before leaving. Everybody including children were running away in confusion,” Kanu said, explaining that the soldiers came in an armoured tank and three Toyota Hilux vans.

Kanu resides in the Afaraukwu community palace, where his father, Eze Israel Kanu, is the monarch.

The Army has denied the allegations however, through the Deputy Director, Public Relations, 14 Brigade Nigerian Army, Major Oyegoke Gbadamosi, who said the stories of an invasion of Kanu’s residence are “fictitious”.  

“This is far from the truth. Rather it was a group of suspected IPOB militants that blocked the road against troops of 145 Battalion while on show of force along FMC-World Bank Road in Umuahia town, Abia State at about 6.00-6.30pm, today (yesterday).

“They insisted that the military vehicles would not pass and started pelting the soldiers with stones and broken bottles to the point of injuring an innocent female passerby and a soldier, Corporal Kolawole Mathew. The troops fired warning shots in the air and the hoodlums dispersed. No life was lost.”

The Army explanation bears similarities with its statement after the December 2015 offensive against the Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky Shi’ites sect in Kaduna. After that incident which led to the killing of hundreds of Shiites, including women and children, the Army said that the group “used heavy stones, logs, tyres and bonfires to block the road. All entreaties to pacify and administration of warning to the sect fell on deaf ears. On the contrary, they became more emboldened and demanded martyrdom with gun shots and pelting of the convoy with whatever was available to them.

“This left immediate security personnel of the Chief of Army Staff with no choice than to take the necessary actions in line with Nigerian Army rules of engagements to clear the attack and extricate the entire convoy.”

The “necessary actions” mentioned by the Army in that report which they submitted to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was the gruesome killings of several Shiites. The Army’s claims on the actions leading to the clash as well as the number of casualties were later proven to be false by both international humanitarian organisations, the Kaduna state government and a judicial commission set up by the Kaduna government to investigate the matter.

In the case of IPOB, while it is not confirmed yet if anyone was killed, a few injuries have been confirmed. The Army claims that IPOB members injured a soldier and an “innocent female passerby”, and both have been evacuated to the unit’s Medical Inspection Room and are receiving treatment. On the other hand, IPOB claims that three people were felled by the soldiers while scores were wounded. 

Kanu said that he would remain committed to his struggle for Biafra’s independence”, despite the “intimidation.”

“They want to use force and beat us into submission because they have lost the argument but they will fail. They want to trigger war but we won’t oblige them because we are committed to our non-violent philosophy,” he said.

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