Nkpor – The Nigerian Army has said that protesters were shot in self-defence and in line with the rules of minimum force during the Biafra Heroes' Day Rally held in Asaba, Delta State, by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) on Monday.
According to the army, several warnings were issued to the "violent" crowd before sporadic shooting ensued when security operatives fired tear gas canisters.
It added that two persons were shot dead while three other persons, including a soldier, were also badly injured in the clash.
A statement on Monday evening by Captain Jonah Unuakhalu, the Spokesman of the 4 Brigade Command of the Nigerian Army, Unuakhalu said the gunshots ensued "from within the crowd".
The statement read: "The crowd moved towards the Niger Bridge with hostile and violent actions. They resorted to stoning the police team and the soldiers deployed for duty at the Asaba end of the River Niger Bridge, who denied them access to the Bridge.
"At that point, the police again warned the crowd several times to disperse, and thereafter released the tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd. The action was confronted with sporadic firing from within the crowd, which followed with simultaneous attacks on the soldiers and policemen with the ulterior aim to disarm and subdue them".
"Guided by the rules of minimum force, the troops and policemen returned fire in self-defence following the attack. The encounter resulted in the death of 2 hoodlums and 2 wounded the shooting and other physical damages to one of our patrol vehicles by the mob while a soldier was badly injured.
"Three persons were arrested including a man performing rituals and incantations on the highway during the incident. However preliminary investigation of the arrested persons is on-going," the statement said.