Four people were killed in the attack and three others were kidnapped, according to local police in Anambra State in Nigeria.
A convoy of US embassy staff was set on fire in southeastern Nigeria, leaving two employees and two police officers dead.
The armed men also kidnapped three individuals – a driver and two other policemen – during the attack on Tuesday near the town of Atani in Anambra State in Nigeria.
A rescue and recovery effort remains ongoing, according to a police spokesperson in Anambra, Ikenga Tochukwu.
“The hoodlums killed two of the operatives of the Police Mobile Force and two staff of the Consulate, and burnt their bodies and their vehicles,” Ikenga said, noting that the area was known for separatist violence.
He also expressed regret that the convoy chose to “enter the state without resorting to the local police or any security agency”. The law enforcement, he said, arrived only after the escape of the attackers.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby briefly addressed the incident at a press briefing at the White House on Tuesday, confirming that “it looks like a US convoy vehicle was attacked”.
“All I can tell you is that no US citizens were involved, and therefore no US citizens were harmed,” Kirby said. He indicated that the US was aware of the casualties, however.
The US State Department later issued a statement saying diplomatic staff were “working with Nigerian security services to investigate”.
“The safety of our personnel is always paramount, and we take many precautions when organizing field trips,” the State Department said.
The attack took place on a major road at around 3:30 local time (14:30 GMT). Police in Anambra have indicated they believe separatists are responsible for the attack as part of a growing campaign of violence.
Officials in the region often target a separatist group called the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which has led the push to break away from Nigeria in favor of establishing its own republic.
In 2020, it established a paramilitary organization called the Eastern Security Network, ostensibly to protect local farmers and residents from crime – but Nigerian police accused it of carrying out violent attacks.
IPOB denies any involvement in the violence. However, tensions have risen since the arrest of the group’s founding leader, Nnamdi Kanu, first in 2015 and again in 2021, after he was out on bail and fled the country for years.
Kanu faces charges of treason and terrorism, to which he has pleaded not guilty. In October, an appeals court dropped the seven-count terrorism charge against Kanu, saying the trial court lacked jurisdiction.
The separatists have long rallied for a referendum organized over the question of independence in southeastern Nigeria. But those questions have a heavy history: In 1967, the Republic of Biafra declared independence, launching a three-year civil war in Nigeria that killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Recently, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari rejected attempts to hold a referendum, calling the unity of the country non-negotiable. He is set to leave office at the end of this month after serving two four-year terms.
He will be replaced by President-elect Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress.
News of Tuesday’s convoy killings comes after an overnight attack late Monday in north-central Plateau state, where attacks on villages left an estimated 30 people dead. the dead and the houses destroyed.
Plateau State Commissioner for Information and Communications Dan Manjang told AFP news agency that the attacks erupted from clashes between Muslim-majority herdsmen and farmers in the region, which are mostly Christian.