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Blinken condemns attack on US convoy in Nigeria

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday vowed that the United States would hold accountable the perpetrators behind a deadly attack on a US convoy in Nigeria which he said had been involved in a flood response.

No group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack in Nigeria’s southeast Anambra State, but an outlawed separatist group has been blamed for repeated raids on police and security services in the region.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this attack. We will work closely with our Nigerian law enforcement colleagues in seeking to bring those responsible to justice,” Blinken said in a statement.

Blinken, confirming Nigerian police accounts, said the incident left “at least” four people dead.

Nigeria’s national police said in a statement on Wednesday that seven people had been killed in the attack.

The two-vehicle convoy was carrying nine people, all Nigerians — five working for the US government and four police officers.

Blinken said the convoy was traveling to prepare a visit to a US-funded flood response project.

“We do not yet know the motive for the attack, but we have no indications at this time that it was targeted against” the embassy specifically, he said.

Saluting the role of local staff, Blinken said: “We express our heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the attack, and pledge to do everything possible to safely recover those who remain missing.”

The local Anambra State government in a statement earlier Wednesday also condemned what it called a “heinous and unprovoked” attack on the convoy.

But it suggested the US team had not properly informed local security officials of their movements.

“It is evident from reports by the various security agencies in the state that the visiting team made their own security arrangements and totally bypassed the existing security architecture in the state,” it said.

“The state government was not aware of the ‘humanitarian mission’ of the visiting team,” it said.

The Anambra government said the state’s crackdown on criminal gangs there had created tensions that risked provoking revenge attacks on police in areas like where the convoy was hit.

Nigerian officials often blame attacks in the southeast on the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network.

IPOB, which agitates for a separate land for the local ethnic Igbo people, consistently denies it is responsible for any of the violence.

Separatism is a sensitive issue in Nigeria, especially the southeast.

More than one million people were killed in the country in a three-year civil war following the declaration of an independent Biafra Republic in the southeast by Igbo army officers in 1967.

Separatists still operate in Nigeria’s southeast, where they have escalated their attacks in recent years, usually targeting police or government buildings.

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