Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the US would prosecute those responsible for a deadly attack on a US convoy in Nigeria, which he claimed was responding to a flood.
Although no group has claimed credit for the attack in Nigeria’s southeast Anambra State on Tuesday, an outlawed separatist group has been blamed for numerous raids on police and security forces in the area.
“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,” Blinken said in a statement.
According to Blinken, who confirmed Nigerian police statements, the attack killed “at least” four persons.
According to a statement issued by Nigeria’s national police on Wednesday, seven individuals were murdered in the attack.
The two-vehicle convoy was carrying nine Nigerians, five of whom worked for the US government and four of whom were police officials.
Blinken stated that the convoy was on its way to a US-funded flood response project.
“We do not yet know the motive for the attack, but we have no indications at this time that it was targeted against” the embassy specifically, he said.
Saluting the role of local staff, Blinken said: “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.”
The local Anambra State government in a statement earlier Wednesday also condemned what it called a “heinous and unprovoked” attack on the convoy.
But it suggested the US team had not properly informed local security officials of their movements.
“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,” it said.
“The state government was not aware of the ‘humanitarian mission’ of the visiting team,” it said.
The Anambra government said the state’s crackdown on criminal gangs there had created tensions that risked provoking revenge attacks on police in areas like where the convoy was hit.
Nigerian officials often blame attacks in the southeast on the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network.
IPOB, which advocates for a separate homeland for the local ethnic Igbo people, has consistently denied any involvement in the violence.
Separatism is a controversial topic in Nigeria, particularly in the southeast.
More than one million people were killed in the country during a three-year civil war that erupted after Igbo army leaders declared an independent Biafra Republic in the southeast in 1967.
Separatists continue to operate in Nigeria’s southeast, where their attacks have increased in recent years, mostly targeting police or government institutions.