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Five pro-Biafra supporters killed celebrating leader's release

By AFP
Nigeria A pro-Biafra supporter holds a poster of jailed activist Nnamdi Kanu during a protest calling for his release in Aba, southeastern Nigeria, on November 18, 2015.  By Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP/File)
FRI, 18 DEC 2015 LISTEN
A pro-Biafra supporter holds a poster of jailed activist Nnamdi Kanu during a protest calling for his release in Aba, southeastern Nigeria, on November 18, 2015. By Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP/File)

Lagos (AFP) - Nigerian security forces have killed five pro-Biafra campaigners as they celebrated the release of their leader in the commercial city of Onitsha, a spokesman said Friday.

An Abuja high court on Thursday ordered the release of Nnamdi Kanu whose arrest since October has sparked a wave of protests across the country, including the economic capital Lagos.

"Nigerian security agents shot dead five of our members yesterday in Onitsha as we were celebrating the news of the release of Kanu by the high court in Abuja," Ikechukwu Ugwoha of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) told AFP.

He said the security agents also went to the hospital where eight other members of the group were being treated for gunshot wounds and arrested them.

Ugwoha vowed to step up the protests despite Kanu's release.

"The struggle is beyond the release of our leader. Our agitation for a Biafran state will continue because it is our life. We cannot continue to remain in Nigeria where we are being treated like second-class citizens," he said.

Kanu, who heads the IPOB group, has emerged as the new face of the Biafra campaign for a separate state for the Igbo people of the southeast.

He had been in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS), the country's secret police since his arrest in October for operating pirate Radio Biafra and belonging to an unlawful organisation.

He was cleared of the criminal charges on Wednesday in a magistrate's court, but the DSS refused to release him pending his investigation for terrorism charges.

The high court however ordered his release on Thursday since no fresh charges had been filed against him.

Biafran protesters have renewed agitation for a separate state for the Igbo people in the southeast, 45 years after the end of a civil war sparked by a previous declaration of independence.

The civil war left some one million dead, mainly from starvation and disease.

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