News

May 31, 2011

3 dead, 500 arrested, 60 cars damaged as police, MASSOB clash

*We’ve always been peaceful, says Uwazuruike

By Chidi Nkwopara

OWERRI-Three loyalists of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, are feared dead, while about 60 hired commercial vehicles used by the activists were allegedly destroyed by policemen sent to stop the group’s assembly in Owerri, yesterday.

The MASSOB members were heading to Owerri, Imo State capital, to mark the 44 anniversary of the declaration of the State of Biafra, when they were accosted by armed policemen.

It was not very clear at press time what led to the open confrontation, but MASSOB loyalists claimed that over 500 of their members were arrested and detained by the police.

Uwazuruike

MASSOB’s chieftain, Ralph Uwazuruike, confirmed that policemen ambushed his men at Imo State University Junction, Owerri, and shot live bullets into the crowd, killing three persons in the act.

He said: “We have always adopted a very peaceful approach to our agitations, but at every point security personnel preferred being brutal to MASSOB members. Ours is a legitimate demand. A lot of us have been killed and maimed in the past but it will not deter us.”

Continuing, the MASSOB leader said about 500 people were arrested in the current onslaught, adding that the body of one of the dead persons was recovered by his men at Irete, Owerri West Local Goverment Area of the state.

Uwazuruike said: “We planned a peaceful process throughout the South Eastern states, beginning from Owerri, to celebrate the 44th year of the declaration of the Republic of Biafra by Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu.”

He said members were coming from different parts of the country when the police struck, smashing over 60 vehicles and towing them to the Police headquarters in Owerri.

Lies, says Police Commissioner

When contacted, the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Maishanu, denied the allegation that his men shot and killed three MASSOB members.

He, however, claimed that MASSOB members attacked his men first and seized a rifle from one of the policemen, pointing out that the act necessitated the reaction from the police.

He affirmed that the police arrested 300 loyalists of the movement during the operation, stressing that the allegation levelled against the Police had been their style.