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Friday, 26 May, 2000, 22:06 GMT 23:06 UK
Biafra violence fear
biafra
More than one million died in the Biafra war
By Barnaby Phillips in Lagos

The Nigerian authorities have mounted a security operation to curb the activities of an organisation which says it will hold a ceremony on Saturday to resurrect the breakaway state of Biafra.


Biafra war
Starts 1967 after Ibos in eastern Nigeria secede
One million deaths
Biafrans defeated 1970 by federal Nigerian forces
Secessionist leader Ojukwu exiled, later pardoned
The Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob) has attracted thousands of young Ibos from eastern Nigeria, who feel they have been discriminated against and should have their own country.

A clash between Massob supporters and police in the eastern city of Abba on Tuesday has raised tensions.

So too has the renewed outbreak of religious violence in Northern Nigeria.

The first republic of Biafra declared its independence from Nigeria in May 1967, but was eventually defeated after a three-year civil war that cost more than one million lives.

But while the Nigerian authorities are extremely concerned about Massob's activities, it is doubtful that the organisation has any serious support among the Ibo people.

Leaders held

Ibo leaders, including the man who led the first Biafran rebellion, Chief Emeka Ojukwu, have distanced themselves from Massob and insist that the Ibos must try to resolve their grievances from within Nigeria.

However, with ethnic and religious tensions running so high in the country, the authorities feel they can take no chances.

Massob's leaders have been picked up for questioning on several occasions in recent weeks, and some of them are currently in hiding.

What exactly Massob intends to do and where it intends to do it, is far from clear.

There is talk of a flag-raising ceremony, as a result of which security has been tightened in several cities.

But until very recently, few Nigerians had even heard of Massob. The authorities' heavy-handed treatment of the organisation has, to a large extent, helped it to win the public's attention.

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29 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Biafran leader looks back
18 Feb 99 | Africa
Nigeria's ethnic divisions
13 Jan 00 | Africa
Biafra: Thirty years on
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