Police chief, bandits die in Nigeria clash

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A Nigerian local police chief and six bandits were shot dead during a clash in south-eastern Imo State, police said, the latest incident in a multi-faceted insecurity crisis engulfing Africa’s most populous nation.

The clash happened on Monday, when a large group of gunmen were spotted driving into Omuma in a convoy of three vehicles. Police attacked, resulting in seven deaths and 11 arrests.

The police gave no information about the bandits — a term commonly used in Nigeria to describe a range of criminals including armed robbers or kidnappers.

South-eastern Nigeria, homeland of the Igbo ethnic group, was tense in recent weeks since the leader of a banned organisation campaigning for secession was detained abroad and returned to Nigeria to face trial for treason.

Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group, was to appear in court in Abuja Monday and across the south-east many stayed at home in solidarity.

In the past, authorities blamed IPOB for attacks on police stations in the south-east. An IPOB spokesman said the gunmen arrested in Omuma were not known to the group.

Insecurity has risem sharply across Nigeria in recent months, driven partly by economic hardship.

The north-west was hit by a wave of mass abductions of schoolchildren by ransom seekers. The north-east remains mired in an Islamic insurgency killed an estimated 350 000 people over a decade.

Armed robberies are rife and conflict between herders and farmers is a cause of frequent deadly clashes.