Fear, uncertainty in South-East Nigeria after wave of attacks

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Burnt station

shell of city prison has become charred symbol of that are unfurling across Nigeria’s southeast, stirring fears of renewed separatist violence and uneasy memories of a civil war half a century ago.

At least 127 and security personnel have been killed this year in powder keg region and than dozen stations razed, according to local media.

assailants are often referred to simply as “unknown .”

Some officers now refuse to wear uniforms in public out of fear, police sources and say, while others are seeking transfers.

“Our region is under siege. Nobody is safe anymore. The can come at any time and wreak havoc on our land,” said Friday Okwor, a retired civil servant in , capital of .

In the most brazen attack, on April 5 heavily-armed men raided Owerri police headquarters and blasted their way with explosives into the main prison, freeing than 1,800 inmates.

In a region where separatist sentiments often flare up among the indigenous , officials are pointing the finger at the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra or IPOB that agitates for a separate state.

But the is far from clear.

IPOB it is being falsely accused in a bid to divide the separatists, who are already split over strategy. Some southern leaders accuse rivals of sponsoring to discredit them.

With a headcount of around 200 million, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, and tensions among its than 250 ethnic groups often simmer.

But some local leaders fan ethnic embers for political gain, critics say, especially as 2023 elections approach to replace President .

Others accuse criminal gangs using the IPOB name as a cover. Some see a frustrated hardline wing of separatists at work.

Buhari’s government, under increasing pressure to tackle insecurity in Nigeria, has ordered a police and army operation to stop the southeastern unrest.

“We are very careful these days because of the rampant killings of our personnel,” one local police told AFP asking not to be identified. (AFP)