Nigerian Security Forces Search For Attackers Of US Embassy Convoy, Abductees
By Timothy Obiezu
Nigerian and American authorities are investigating after armed men on Tuesday attacked a U.S. convoy in southeast Anambra state, killing two consulate staff and two policemen. Nigerian police say the attackers also abducted two police officers and a driver.
Anambra state police command spokesperson Tochukwu Ikenga said Wednesday that security forces are searching for the perpetrators and the three people they abducted.
In a separate statement late Tuesday, Ikenga said local police were unaware of the movement of the U.S. convoy until after the attack and that the area was known for separatist violence.
Police said the attackers opened fire on the motorcade, killed the officers and U.S consulate workers and then burned their corpses along with the vehicles.
Analyst Kabiru Adamu of Beacon Security Consulting said there’s no question the attackers sought out the U.S. convoy for attack.
“These vehicles had diplomatic numbers (license plates), they were protected by security escort,” he said. “So, it was very clear that whoever targeted them, it was a specific targeting.”
Nigerian police and White House national security official John Kirby said there were no U.S. citizens in the convoy.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but authorities suspect separatist agitators in the region.
Security forces have blamed the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for increasing violence in the southeast.
But security expert Chidi Omeje said the attack is a sign of a general decline in security, not just Biafran separatist activity.
“It just goes to show that the security challenge in the southeast is still very much an issue,” he said. “I do not want to believe that every crime committed in the southeast now is by IPOB, because there are criminals who take advantage of this situation and commit these kinds of crimes. The embassy should’ve known that the southeast region for now is actually challenged by insecurities.”
The IPOB is seeking to break away from Nigeria’s southeastern region to form an independent state called Biafra.
The movement triggered a civil war in the late 1960s in which an estimated one million Biafrans died, mostly from famine.
In recent years, the region has seen increased attacks, including many raids on offices of the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in a bid to disrupt elections.
Adamu said the latest attack less than two weeks before the start of a new presidential administration could have implications.
“The fact that it’s in a transition period, the attackers would’ve known the consequences of attacking a diplomatic convoy in a transition period would be far reaching, and so whether the objective is to affect the transition or not the result is the same,” he said. “There were warnings by different security agencies of plans to truncate the transition process.”
On Monday, the U.S. State Department announced a visa ban on Nigerian citizens who undermined the electoral process.
The department did not immediately name anyone affected by the ban.