The Nigerian Army has reacted to reports of the alleged killing of innocent civilians by some soldiers who opened fire on residents at Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State, Southeast Nigeria, on Sunday, April 17.
The army, in a statement by its spokesperson, Onyema Nwachukwu, said soldiers who opened fire were from the 34 Artillery Brigade, and their purpose was to combat members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) at Ihioma community in Orlu.
He claimed that they encountered the separatist agitators during a routine patrol at Banana Junction while “enforcing the illegal sit-at-home order on law-abiding citizens going about their legitimate businesses.”
While he was silent on the number of citizens killed and injured during the firefight, Nwachukwu said, “one of the criminals (IPOB member) was taken out, while others fled in disarray.”
“Troops are combing the general area in a follow-up operation to track down the fleeing dissidents,” he said.
Multiple sources told HumAngle that no fewer than four people were killed in what appears to be a gross violation of fundamental rights during the soldiers’ raid on Sunday.
Many residents of the local government also stormed social media, particularly Twitter, with gory images and videos of happenings in Orlu.
But the military denied it, saying, “having suffered casualty and effectively denied freedom of action by the troops, the irredentist group have resorted to cheap propaganda to whip up public sentiments by circulating a doctored video on the social media alleging troops complicity in their mindless atrocities.”
This is not the first time soldiers are launching deadly attacks on Orlu and its environs. It is believed that the local government houses most agitators of IPOB and is also considered the epicentre of the group’s activities in Imo.
Declared as a terror group in 2018, IPOB, a separatist organisation is demanding the creation of an independent state of Biafra in the Old Eastern Region of Nigeria, comprising the current Southeast and South-south regions.
The sit-at-home enforced by IPOB members in Southeast is to demand the release of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who is currently in detention and charged with treasonable felony, unlawful possession of arms, and illegal importation of broadcast equipment at a Federal High Court in Abuja. We also reported how the violent activities of non-state actors are eclipsing communities and cities in the region. With security deployment and counterattacks, it is looking like the early stages of a full-blown insurgency.