Gunmen attacked a US convoy in southeastern Nigeria’s Anambra state on Tuesday, police and a US official said, killing four people and abducting three others.
Separatists operating in the region have escalated their attacks in recent years, mostly targeting police or government buildings.
“There was no US citizen in the convoy,” police spokesman Ikenga Tochukwu said.
The gunmen “killed two Police Mobile Force officers and two consulate employees,” he said, before “setting fire” to their vehicle.
The attack took place at “3.30pm (14.30 GMT) along Atani, Osamale Road” in Ogbaru district on Tuesday, police said.
Joint security forces were deployed to the scene, Tochukwu said, but the gunmen managed to kidnap two police officers and a driver.
A “rescue/salvage operation” was underway on Tuesday evening, he added in his statement.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed the attack during a briefing with reporters in Washington DC.
“An American convoy of vehicles was attacked. What I can tell you is that no American citizens were involved,” Kirby said.
The State Department also confirmed the attack.
“U.S. Mission Nigeria personnel are cooperating with Nigerian security forces to investigate,” a spokesman said.
“The safety of our staff is always paramount and we take extensive precautions when organizing travel to the field.”
– Forbidden group –
Nigerian officials often blame attacks in the southeast on the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra Movement (IPOB) and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network.
IPOB has repeatedly denied responsibility for the violence.
The group’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is in government custody and is on trial for treason after being detained abroad and returned to Nigeria.
Separatism is a sensitive issue in Nigeria, where a declaration of an independent Biafra republic by Igbo army officers in the southeast in 1967 sparked a three-year civil war that left more than a million dead.
Violence in the southeast is just one of many problems facing President-elect Bola Tinubu, who will take over Africa’s most populous nation later this month.
The military is also battling a 14-year-old jihadist insurgency in the northeast, kidnapping and killing gangs in the northwest and central states, and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
After a brief period of calm during the presidential and governorship elections in February and March, attacks have increased in recent weeks.
Former Anambra state governor Peter Obi, who ran and lost in the February 25 presidential election, is among those contesting Tinubu’s victory and claiming fraud.
The Electoral Commission has acknowledged “malfunctions” during the vote but has rejected claims that the process was not free and fair.
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