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Clashes in Southeastern Nigeria Leave Six Dead


In Nigeria, clashes in the southeastern market city of Onitsha between the police and members of a separatist group have left at least six people dead.

The city of Onitsha was calm but tense Saturday, following three days of clashes that left at least six militants dead.

Police say special police squads stormed a meeting of the banned Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra, known as MASSOB. A violent clash ensued.

"While we were holding our meeting, the Nigerian police, mobile policemen, they came there with about 30-something vehicles, with two armored cars. They started to shoot sporadically, without even regard for the lives of people," said MASSOB activist Eddyson Samuel.

Police say they have arrested 18 members of MASSOB, but denied responsibility for the killings. A police spokesman said six policemen were injured.

MASSOB campaigns for Southern Nigeria, a region dominated by the Ibo ethnic group, to secede by peaceful means, though some of its members have been involved in fighting in the past.

Hundreds of MASSOB's members have been arrested. The groups leader, Ralph Uwazurike, is in jail facing a treason trial.

Samuel says the group's efforts will continue.

"We will continue with our struggle and our tactic remains non-violent," he added. "We will continue with the system until Biafra is actualized. No matter the intimidation, killing and arrest, we will continue with the system."

Onitsha, a sprawling market city on the banks of the river Niger, is one of Nigeria's most violent cities.