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Dozens in court after pro-Biafra clashes in Nigeria

Sixty suspected members of a pro-Biafran group were remanded in custody on Monday when they appeared in court after clashes with the security services in southeast Nigeria.

The defendants, all said to be members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, are charged with a string of offences, including attempted murder and terrorism.

Abia state police spokesman Geoffrey Ogbonna said the case before magistrates in the state capital Umuahia was adjourned until October 25. No plea was entered.

The case is the second involving suspected IPOB members following the clashes earlier this month that were sparked by a build-up of troops in the southeast.

Seven people were remanded in custody last week in the commercial hub, Aba.

IPOB wants an independent state for the Igbo people who dominate the southeast region, reviving secessionist sentiment that led to a brutal civil war 50 years ago.

Tension has been building since October 2015 when the group’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was arrested and held in custody until he was released on bail in April this year.

His trial on charges of treasonable felony is expected to resume next month.

The army earlier this month flooded Abia state with troops, ostensibly as part of an operation against violent crime, but IPOB suspected it was an attempt to curb its activities.

Supporters clashed in Abia and neighbouring Rivers state, while the violence threatened to take on a wider ethnic dimension when unrest flared in the central city of Jos.

Nigeria’s government has since formally proscribed IPOB as a terrorist organisation and accused it of stoking tensions by making false claims online of genocide against Igbos.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed said last week that IPOB’s “financial headquarters” was in France. Paris said it has “no knowledge of a particular IPOB presidence in France”.

“We would like to reiterate that France actively cooperates with Nigeria in the field of security and that we strongly support the unity of the country,” the French embassy said.

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