Blinken ,Nigeria Government, Soludo, HURIWA condemn attack on United States consulate officials

 Blinken: Attack on US Convoy in Anambra May Not Have Been Pre-targeted at Our Mission

•Buhari saddened by killings of US embassy staff, policemen in Anambra, others in Benue, Plateau

•Says perpetrators will face the music

•FG, Soludo, HURIWA condemn attack on United States consulate officials

•Anambra governor pledges reward for information

•Community sources: Ogbaru attack not targeted at US officials, indigenes also killed

United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, yesterday, gave details of the attack on a US convoy in Anambra State on Tuesday.

Blinken disclosed that four members of the advance party were killed, with the whereabouts of some others still unknown. He said the motive for the attack was yet unknown, stressing that it may not have been pre-targeted at the US mission.

The clarifications came as President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, expressed his condolences on killing of the two United States embassy officials and two Nigerian policemen accompanying them by gunmen in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State.

Blinken, in statement explained, “Unknown assailants yesterday (Tuesday) attacked a convoy of two US government vehicles in the Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, Nigeria.

“The convoy was carrying nine Nigerian nationals: five employees of the U.S. Mission to Nigeria and four members of the Nigeria Police Force. They were traveling in advance of a planned visit by U.S. Mission personnel to a U.S.-funded flood response project in Anambra.”

Blinken added, “We do not yet know the motive for the attack, but we have no indications at this time that it was targeted against our Mission.

“The assailants killed at least four members of the convoy, and U.S. Mission personnel are working urgently with Nigerian counterparts to ascertain the location and condition of the members of the convoy who are unaccounted for.”

“We condemn in the strongest terms this attack. We will work closely with our Nigerian law enforcement colleagues in seeking to bring those responsible to justice.

“The United States has no greater priority than the safety and security of our personnel. We express our heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the attack, and pledge to do everything possible to safely recover those who remain missing.

“We deeply value our relationship with our Locally Employed Staff and our partnership with Nigeria.”

“The United States reaffirms its commitment to the people of Nigeria to assist in the fight against violence and insecurity.”

Buhari expressed his condolences on the killings in a statement by his spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu.

The president said, “I was very sad hearing about the killing of the embassy staff and our policemen accompanying them. In this difficult time for the families of those killed, the American Embassy and the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, I extend the nation’s condolences over the very sad incident.”

According to the statement, Buhari has equally been briefed about the tragic killing of several persons in Bwoi District of Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State, as well as in Adaka village in Makurdi Local Government Area and in Ijaha community of Apa Local Government Area of Benue State.

The president said he was deeply pained to learn about the gruesome deaths and expressed sincere condolences to the families of the victims.

According to him, “We share the grief of the American Embassy, the Nigeria Police Force and our communities in Plateau and Benue and remain committed to fishing out the perpetrators of the attacks and bringing them to justice.

“May God give their families the strength to bear the unfortunate losses.”

In a related development, the federal government, yesterday, condemned the attack in Anambra State on staff of the United States consulate, and reassured of its continued fight against all forms of crime and criminality in the country.

A statement by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Francisca Omayuli, read, “The federal government received with dismay the sad news of the attack on the convoy of the staffers of the US Consulate on Tuesday, 16th May, 2023 in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State by yet to be identified gunmen.

“The unfortunate incident, which led to the death of two policemen and two locally recruited staff of the Consulate, is condemnable and most regrettable.”

It added, “While investigation is on-going to fish out the culprits and bring them to book, the federal government extends its sympathies and condolences to the families of the deceased as well as to the United States Consulate and Mission in Nigeria over the unfortunate incident.”

Furthermore, the federal government said it remained “undaunted by this sad development and reiterates its commitment to the continued fight against all forms of crime and criminality in the country.”

Anambra State Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, also condemned the killing of the US officials and security men in the state, and pledged reward for anyone who would volunteer information on the killers.

Soludo, in a statement signed by his Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Aburime, commiserated with the US embassy, while also assuring that those behind the attack would be arrested.

The statement read, “We strongly condemn the heinous and unprovoked attack. Over the last one year, we have worked very hard with our gallant security forces to massively degrade criminality and restore law and order. We can proudly assert that Anambra is currently one of the safest states in Nigeria.

“Only two weeks ago, the dreaded and notorious criminal gang leader operating mostly in a neighbouring state was gunned down with four of his team members when they made incursion into Anambra and (we) recovered huge deadly weapons. The criminals are largely on the run or feeling the heat of our zero tolerance to criminality.

“This incident in a remote riverine community in Ogbaru local government is a reminder that patches of these criminal gangs can still unleash senseless and murderous acts.

“Whatever the identity or motive of the attackers, Anambra State government will actively work with the security agencies to smoke out the criminals and bring them to justice.”

The statement added, “We call on anyone with information on the identity or whereabouts of the criminals to offer same on our secured security phone numbers or to any of the security agencies and such informant will be handsomely rewarded. Investigations are underway.

“We assure our residents and visitors of our continued commitment to law and order. If anything, this incident has emboldened our drive.

“As the investigation continues, it is important to highlight an important preliminary takeaway from the facts so far. It is evident from reports by the various security agencies in the state that the visiting team made their own security arrangements and totally bypassed the existing security architecture in the state and the state government was not aware of the humanitarian mission of the visiting team.

“In a place like parts of Ogbaru, where security forces have been fighting the criminals and oil bunkerers, the sight of few policemen can, indeed, attract vengeance from the criminal gangs. Correcting such lapses and ensuring better coordination will help prevent such avoidable incidents in the future.”

A civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA), also yesterday, condemned the attack by gunmen on United States Embassy staff convoy in Anambra State.

HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, tasked security agencies to bring the perpetrators to book.

HURIWA said although no US citizen was killed, those killed were nationalities of other nations or even Nigeria, including the policemen, and “so the USA should think of imposing travel ban on the governors of the South-east of Nigeria to compel them to act swiftly to end the mindless orgies of dastardly attacks and bloodshed in Igboland.”

Onwubiko added, “The killing and the attack on US Consulate staffers in Anambra State on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 is shameful and a national disgrace to Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari under whose watch kidnapping and violent killings by armed marauders have skyrocketed to an unimaginable and shocking height.

“This is condemnable and our security agencies must do all possible to bring the perpetrators to book.”

HURIWA also blasted the Nigeria Police, Anambra State Command, for lacking action and displaying crass ignorance, when the spokesperson of the police in the state reportedly blamed the US Embassy for sending a medical mission without prior information to the Police Command in Anambra State.

HURIWA also slammed the outgoing Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, for allegedly hitting commercial motorcyclists in Abakaliki with his convoy on his way to the airport and allegedly killing three citizens of Ebonyi State.

HURIWA said the governor should be personally held responsible for the mindless deaths and should be prosecuted in about two weeks after he loses immunity upon disengagement from the office of governor on May 29.

Meanwhile, sources within Ogbaru community stated that the attack on US Consulate officials on Tuesday in Anambra was not a targeted one.

Anambra State police spokesperson, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, had disclosed that the gunmen also abducted police operatives, who had come to counter the attack.

But, Mr. Arinze Nzeli, a youth leader in Ogbaru said, “Attacks happened in two places in Ogbaru yesterday. I was not in town, but my relatives told me the whole story.

“One happened in Ochuche, where the officials were killed. The second incident was at Ogbakuba, close to a place called Sule Farm, where a vehicle was set ablaze.

“I think there were UN officials because they usually come to the community. I see them each time they come, and they take pictures and also hold projects in the community. There is usually an inscription ‘UN’ on their vehicles, and their security is not usually much, each time they come to the community.”

A community leader, and House of Representatives member-elect, Hon Afam Ogene, in his own account, said, “The US consulate vehicle was attacked and burnt immediately after St. Patrick’s Farms, on the approach to Umunankwo community.

“Three other yet to be identified vehicles were burnt in another attack, one at Ogbakuba, while two were around Amiyi junction, with their human occupants still aflame as at 9pm yesterday.”

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