THE Anambra State Police Command has announced the arrest of two suspected members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in connection with the attack on a convoy of United States (US) Embassy officials in the state.
It was initially reported that four persons were killed in the attack, by latest figures released by the police indicate that seven persons were killed in the incident, which occured in the Amiyi/Eke Ochuche axis of Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State on Tuesday night.
Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Echeng Echeng, announced the arrest of suspects during a press briefing in Awka on Thursday, May 18.
According to Echeng, the suspects were apprehended during a joint operation conducted by security forces, including police tactical teams from the Command, Nigerian Army troops, and the Nigerian Navy.
He said that the operation took place in a camp located near the Ugwuaneocha community in the Ogbaru Local Government Area of the state.
The commissioner described the camp as a hideout for the assailants, suspected to be members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
He said two persons of interest were arrested and had been assisting the police investigation into the attack that claimed the lives of seven persons.
“Upon arrival at the scene of the incident, the joint security team sighted and engaged the assailants in a shootout, but they escaped through a nearby forest. On May 17, 2023, joint security forces comprising police tactical teams from the command and troops of the Nigerian Army as well as the Nigerian Navy raided a camp in the Ugwuaneocha community of Ogbaru LGA, which was suspected to be the hideout of the assailants but discovered that it had been deserted. The criminal camp was razed down by the joint security team.”
How US Embassy convoy was attacked
Contrary to earlier reports, the police boss said seven individuals lost their lives, including three consulate officials and four mobile police escorts during the attack.
Continuing, the commissioner of police said: “The preliminary investigation conducted by the Command, following the incident, revealed that five male officials of the USA consulate and four armed Mobile Police escorted from Lagos on a mission to assess the impact of erosion in Ogbaru LGA were travelling in a convoy of two vehicles when they suddenly came under attack by armed men who targeted them with gunfire and set their vehicles ablaze.
“Regrettably, seven persons including three of the consulate officials and four Mobile Police escorts were murdered during the attack while two other officials of the consulate are yet to be found.”
Murdered US Embassy officials named
Echeng disclosed the names of the US Embassy officials killed in the attack. The victims were identified by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Information from the USAID authority disclosed that five of their staff and four policemen involved in the attack are Jefferson Obayuwane (Retd. DSS personnel), Sunday Prince Ubong, Ekene Nweke, Hassan Etila and Avwuvie Kaye Monday,” the police commissioner said.
He added that the bodies of the deceased have been recovered and placed in a morgue.
He further disclosed that his men in conjunction with other security agencies and the Anambra State government, are intensifying efforts to locate and rescue some of the missing officials kidnapped by the assailants.
Echeng urged members of the public to provide any information they may have regarding the identities and whereabouts of the perpetrators.
He also extended his condolences to the families and friends of the deceased, as well as to the US Consul, and called on members of the public to assist the police with relevant information.
The ICIR had reported that officials of the US embassy were killed in the attack, which occured in the Ogbaru LGA of Anambra State on Tuesday night. The diplomatic delegation, which was on a humanitarian mission, came under fire as they were passing through the area.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the Federal and Anambra state governments have issued various statements to condemn the incident even as they asked security operatives to bring the perpetrators to justice.
No indication that gunmen targeted US Embassy officials — Secretary of State Blinken
Speaking on the incident in a statement on Wednesday, May 17, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said the convoy was carrying a total of nine individuals, including five employees of the US embassy and four members of the Nigeria Police Force.
He said that the officials were travelling to a US funded flood response project in Anambra when the incident occurred.
He noted that there were no indications suggesting that the assailants specifically targeted the US embassy.
“We do not yet know the motive for the attack, but we have no indications at this time that it was targeted against our Mission,” he said.
“The assailants killed at least four members of the convoy, and US Mission personnel are working urgently with Nigerian counterparts to ascertain the location and condition of the members of the convoy who are unaccounted for.”
While condemning the act, Blinken added that the US will stand united with Nigerian law enforcement agencies in their quest to apprehend those responsible and bring them to justice.
“The United States has no greater priority than the safety and security of our personnel. 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.
“We deeply value our relationship with our Locally Employed Staff and our partnership with Nigeria.
“The United States reaffirms its commitment to the people of Nigeria to assist in the fight against violence and insecurity.”
The South-East part of country has been experiencing a rising spate of violence and insecurities in recent times occasioned by gunmen suspected to be IPOB members.
A report by The ICIR, in May last year, shows that at least 287 people died within the region between January and May 2022 due to insecurity.