Gunmen Kill 12 Police Officers in Nigeria’s Oil-Producing Hub

Gunmen killed 12 police officers in weekend attacks targeting security agents in two of Nigeria’s oil-producing states in the Niger River Delta in an escalating conflict fueled by secessionist tensions.

Seven of the officers were killed in Rivers State in the southern part of the country, the police confirmed in an emailed statement Sunday. Authorities have blamed previous incidents on the vigilante arm of the Indigenous People of Biafra, which is seeking to break away from the country.

“No amount of intimidation or cruel resort to barbaric attacks will make the state succumb to secessionist agenda of those who are bent on plunging Nigeria into another unwarranted crisis,” Nyesom Wike, the state governor, said in an emailed statement Sunday.

He imposed a night time curfew last week after gunmen killed an unspecified number of police, army and customs officers in two different attacks on April 24 and 25. The escalating conflict that started with attacks on security agents and government facilities in the southeast part of the country now threatens to engulf the oil-producing region in Africa’s largest crude producer.

Unknown gunmen also attacked a local government divisional police headquarters in Akwa Ibom state, which borders Rivers state, local newspaper Thisday reported. Five police officers and the wife of a serving officer were killed during the attack, a police command spokesman told the newspaper.

Rivers and Akwa Ibom states account for more than half of oil production capacity of about 2 million barrels a day in Africa’s most-populous country, which is contending with a decade-long war against Islamist insurgents in the northeast, a worsening conflict between nomadic herders and crop farmers in the central regions, and a resurgent violent separatist rebellion in the southeast where it fought a three-year civil war from 1967 to 1970.

It’s also facing a growing number of abductions of students that have shut down hundreds of schools in the northern part of the country which already has one of the world’s highest number of out of school children.

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