Nigeria police press conference on deadly US convoy attack

The police in Anambra state in Southeast Nigeria briefs media on the attack on a US convoy in the region, that killed seven people.“Three of the consulate officials and four police mobile personnel were killed during that attack while two other officials of the consulate are still missing,” says Anambra state Police Commissioner Echeng Echeng. He added that “two persons of interest were arrested and are already assisting the police in the investigation.”

-The story so far-

Suspected separatists carried out the ambush on a US consulate convoy in southern Nigeria earlier this week that killed three local staff and four security escorts, police said on Thursday.

Gunmen opened fire on the two vehicles on Tuesday in southeastern Anambra State, in a region where the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) separatist group agitates for the ethnic Igbo people.

No US citizen was involved and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said there were no indications the attack specifically targeted the US embassy.

Attacks on diplomats are rare in Nigeria, where President-elect Bola Tinubu takes office on May 29 with armed forces battling security threats ranging from jihadists to criminal gangs and separatists in different parts of the country.

Anambra State police commissioner Echeng Echeng told reporters on Thursday IPOB or their armed wing, the Eastern Security Network, were suspected to be behind the attack on the convoy.

“They suddenly came under attack by armed men who targeted them with gunfire and set their vehicles ablaze, Regrettably seven persons including three of the consulate officials and four police mobile personnel were killed during that attack” he said.

He said two local US consulate staff were still missing after the ambush.

Two suspects linked to the attack have been arrested, he added.

The consulate team were travelling to visit a USAID-funded project providing humanitarian aid for people displaced by flooding in Anambra last year.

Police and naval forces engaged in a gun battle with the attackers who escaped into forests. Security forces raided a camp of suspected separatists on Wednesday, but found it abandoned.

IPOB has been repeatedly accused of targeting police patrols and killing security officers in southeast Nigeria. It persistently denies being behind any violence.

Anambra State government on Wednesday condemned what it called a “heinous and unprovoked” attack on the convoy, but also suggested the US team did not properly inform local officials of their movements.

It said the state’s crackdown on criminal gangs had created tensions that could provoke revenge attacks on police in areas like where the convoy was hit.

Separatism is highly sensitive in Nigeria, where more than one million people were killed in a three-year civil war following the declaration of an independent Biafra Republic in the southeast by Igbo army officers in 1967.

Separatists still operate in the country’s southeast, where they have escalated their attacks in recent years, usually targeting police or government buildings.