Nigerian Protests

Two weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality in Nigeria turned deadly.  Tuesday as security forces fired live rounds on demonstrators, killing several people

Nigerians began demonstrating in early October, calling for the ban of a notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, that has been long accused of violent harassment.

Formed in 1992, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad is a heavily armed police unit to fight violent crime including car jackings and armed robbery, and has become synonymous across much of Nigeria with allegations of police brutality and impunity

The police had repeatedly denied accusations against SARS, but conceded after the protests erupted that there were “unruly and unprofessional” officers and said these people would face disciplinary actions.

After days of silence, President Muhammadu Buhari, a former general, addressed the nation Thursday evening, calling for protesters to leave the streets but making no mention of Tuesday’s attack.

On Tuesday evening, hundreds of Nigerian protesters had gathered for the 13th straight night at Lekki Toll Gate, the intersection in an upscale zone that had become the symbolic home of the protests. Shortly before 7 p.m., the lights went out, plunging the street into darkness, according to the testimony of seven protesters present.

Within 30 minutes, Nigerian soldiers emerged from gun trucks. As demonstrators began to sing Nigeria’s national anthem, “Arise O’ Compatriots,” the army fired live rounds at the unarmed protesters, leaving several people dead, and filling Nigerian social-media feeds with images of bloodstained flags that have prompted international condemnation from around the world.

The number of people killed and wounded in Tuesday’s crackdown is high.

Nigeria’s federal government has refused to comment on the incursion, pending an investigation. An army spokesman first referred questions about the killings to the police, before denying it was involved.

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