Suspected separatist gunmen have killed a soldier and a policeman in two attacks in Nigeria’s restive southeast, officials said, in a region where agitation for a breakaway state has been on the rise.
Southeast Nigeria has seen a surge in violence, with more than 130 police and other security personnel killed by gunmen this year, according to a local media tallies.
Authorities have blamed attacks on the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra or IPOB movement, which calls for a separate state for the ethnic Igbo people, or its armed wing the Eastern Security Network or ESN.
Gunmen attacked the police station in Imo State on Tuesday, killing one officer.
“The incident happened yesterday. The gunmen burned down the divisional police headquarters at Arondizuogu in Ideato council of Imo State, killing a policeman,” state police spokesman Michael Abattam told AFP on Wednesday.
He said the divisional police officer was also wounded in the attack.
“We are on top of the situation. We are on the trail of the attackers with a view to bringing them to justice.”
One soldier was also killed on Monday in the Imo district of Oru East, where troops clashed with gunmen who set fire to buildings to enforce an economic lockdown ordered by IPOB, the army said.
The group has been ordering repeated shutdowns of markets and businesses in the southeast to protest the arrest of its leader Nnamdi Kanu overseas earlier this year.
But IPOB has denied involvement in any of the attacks on police.
“Troops responding to distress calls by motorists and shop owners swiftly moved to the scene and engaged the hoodlums in a firefight. The troops overhwemled the hoodlums, forcing them to scamper,” the army said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.
It said one soldier was killed and also one gunman. It accused IPOB of setting homes on fire in revenge for local residents working with soldiers.
Some local residents accused the army of torching buildings in response to the killing of one of their troops.
Amnesty International has accused Nigerian security forces of using excessive force and killing at least 115 people in a crackdown on separatist agitators in the southeast.
Separatist movements in Nigeria are particularly sensitive after a unilateral declaration of an independent Biafra republic by dissident Igbo army officers sparked a 30-month civil war.
More than one million people died, most of them Igbos, from the impact of conflict, hunger and disease.