The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinkencondemned the attack in Nigeria on a convoy of two US government vehiclesin which nine Nigerian citizens were traveling, and killed at least four people.
“We condemn the attack in Anambra State on a convoy of two US government vehicles carrying employees of the US Mission in Nigeria and members of the Nigerian Police. We treasure our relationship with our locally employed staff and our partnership with Nigeria,” Blinken wrote on his Twitter account.
Assailants opened fire on the convoy along a main road in the local government area of ogbaruin the state of Anambra, one of the epicenters of the separatist violence in the region, according to police. “The thugs killed two officers of the Mobile Police Force and two consulate employees, setting their bodies and vehicles on fire,” said Tochukwu Ikenga, a police spokesman in Anambra.
A joint security force team was deployed to the scene but only arrived after the assailants escaped with two other police officers and one of the drivers, Ikenga added.
“No US citizens were in the convoy.”, said a police spokesman, Ikenga Tochukwu. The gunmen “killed two agents of the mobile police force and two consulate employees” before setting their vehicle on fire, he added.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, confirmed the attack. The State Department also confirmed the attack. “We are aware of some casualties, maybe even some deaths, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” Kirby said at a press conference.
The US State Department said its staff in Nigeria are working with the country’s security agencies to investigate. “The safety of our personnel is always paramount, and we take extensive precautions when arranging trips to the field,” the State Department said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear the nature of the trip undertaken by the US embassy staff in Anambra, nor how many were in the convoy.. Ikenga said it was unfortunate that “a convoy of this type or any related one enters the state without recourse to the local police or any security agency.”
The attack in the city of Atani, located 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the state capital, further heightened concerns for the safety of residents and travelers amid the separatist violence which has spread across the south-eastern region of Nigeria in recent years.
Authorities have blamed the violence on a separatist group known as Biafran Indigenous People, who is leading a campaign for the region to secede from the West African nation and form an independent country. The separatists have grown more violent in recent years as they continue to demand a referendum and since the trial of their leader Nnamdi Kanu on terrorism charges.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has rejected calls for a referendum, insisting that the unity of Africa’s most populous country – and the continent’s largest economy – is non-negotiable.
(With information from AP, AFP and EP)
Gunmen massacred numerous faithful in a Catholic church in Nigeria: at least 50 dead
At least 41 dead in Nigeria after clash between gunmen and vigilante group