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Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Manhunt on for Biafran rebels
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Manhunt on for Biafran rebels

- News24, Edited by Tisha Steyn

Nigerian police have launched a manhunt for leaders and supporters of a militant group seeking a separate state for the ethnic Igbo people of the southeast, officers told AFP on Monday. "Crack detectives are on the trail of leaders and members of this illegal group. What they are doing amounts to treason. Nobody will ever allow the break-up of Nigeria," said Anambra State police spokesperson Kolapo Shofoluwe.

The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra was formed in 1999 to promote the creation of a state of Biafra, the name given to a separatist republic whose formation in 1967 led to a three-year civil war. The group has in the past few weeks called on the more than 30 million people of the five Igbo-speaking states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo to go on strike on August 26 to draw international attention to their struggle.

"We are aware of Massob's latest plan to force people against their wish. They have ordered the closure of markets, schools, offices on August 26. The police will not allow this to happen," Shofoluwe said. "Our men will soon flush them out and put a final stop to these illegalities. We know they have erected flags in some villages and towns as a prelude to declaring a republic of Biafra. We shall uproot these very soon," he added. Shofoluwe urged residents of the five Igbo states to ignore the MASSOB's campaign and remain "law-abiding citizens of Nigeria".

The Nigerian government banned the movement in 2001. Alleging that its activities threatened the peace and unity of the country. Despite the ban, Massob has continued to pursue its campaign for self-determination.

In June, 38 Massob members were arrested from different locations in the southeast following a tip-off and last year, some 40 members of the group, including its leader Ralph Uwazuruke, were taken to court. They were later released on the order of the court after a few months in detention.

The Igbo, Nigeria's third largest ethnic group of some 30 million people, sought to break away in 1967, but were defeated in a bloody civil war that lasted for 30 months and cost more than one million lives.




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