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Five Killed, Seven Injured As JTF Clash With Pro-Biafra Groups

Five people were shot dead on Thursday, December 17, in Onitsha following a clash between pro-Biafra protestors from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), and the Joint Task Force (JTF).
The shooting which took place at the Niger bridge head, left seven others injured.
Four of the victims shot dead were members of both IPOB and MASSOB, while one person is said to be a soldier who was lynched by the mob.
Vanguard reports that the clash ensued after soldiers opened fire on a jubilant crowd of pro-Biafra agitators.
All the markets around the Niger bridge head, including the bridge head market, Onitsha patent and propitiatory medicine dealers market (Ogbo Ogwu market) and other markets located around the bridge, including Abada market were quickly shut down, following sporadic shooting by the military to scare the jubilant crowd away.
According to an eye-witness at the Onitsha head bridge, the Biafra agitators were said to have been marching on the road near the River Niger bridge, chanting solidarity songs in jubilation for the release of Nnamdi Kanu, and were accosted by the soldiers, who ordered them to go back.
It was when the pro-Biafra groups refused to go back that the soldiers allegedly opened fire on them.
Some other sources report that the pro-Biafra agitators and those sympathetic to their cause were jubilating, singing and dancing near the bridge and in annoyance the soldiers who had been guarding the bridge opened fire on them, shooting four people.
The police spokesman, Ali Okechukwu, confirmed the clash and accused the pro-Biafra agitators of mobilizing over 100 of their members to launch an attack on the soldiers at the Niger bridge head.
He said the agitators also tried to dispossess the security operatives of their guns.
Okechukwu who was silent on the number of people killed, said: “I learnt that there was a disagreement between the Army, IPOB and MASSOB members, who mobilized over 100 of their members to attack soldiers at the Niger bridge head.”
He said that he was trying to get the army authorities to comment on the incident, but unfortunately they were not answering his calls.
Speaking on the incident, the leader of MASSOB, Uchenna Madu, said the news of the release of Kanu elicited singing, dancing and jubilation in Onitsha and other ‘Biafran’ lands.
He said that those Biafrans in Onitsha took their dance to the Chukwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu plaque at the Niger bridge head and out of envy the soldiers who mounted a roadblock there opened fire on the dancing protesters and killed four.
According to him, no amount of intimidation, harassment and killing of their members will make them resort to violence.
He added: “The military is doing all sorts of things to push us into violence, but we will never do that because that is what has been setting us free in all the harassment and intimidation we have been going through.”
ources say that immediately the four people were killed, the police, army, navy and civil defence units which had been harassing and intimidating the residents at their checkpoints abandoned the roads.
The seven people who sustained bullet wounds were transferred to Multi Care Hospital, Onitsha, and the bodies of the dead were reportedly taken to a yet to be identified hospital in Onitsha.
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to immediately release  the detained leader of the IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
The court directed that Kanu, who had been in detention since October 17,  should be released “unconditionally.”
Ruling on the fundamental rights suit by Kanu, the trial judge, Justice Ademola Adeniyi, said there was no basis for the applicant to remain in custody since there was currently no charge pending against him.