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At least three killed as soldiers and policemen rampage in streets of Lagos

[Nigeria] Lagos
Un hôpital soupçonné de rejeter les patients infectés au VIH se défend de toute discrimination (IRIN)

At least three people were killed when soldiers and police exchanged live fire in Nigeria's biggest city, Lagos, on Tuesday, as an incident between a police officer and a soldier degenerated into a wild free-for-all.

Police and soldiers traded fire across the city's main artery and cars and offices were torched in one of the worst clashes between police and soldiers in recent years.

The battle broke out when reports that a policeman had beaten up an army private sent more than 200 angry soldiers marching onto the streets to stage a reprisal attack.

The troops from the Abalti Barracks in the Surulere district of Lagos marched 500 metres to the area command office on Western Avenue, where they set a building ablaze after freeing detained criminals, witnesses said.

A shopkeeper who witnessed the violence, Uche Aniagor, said the trouble began after policemen beat up an off-duty soldier during an argument.

"The soldier ran to the nearby barracks and mobilised his mates, who came out armed and in large numbers," said Aniagor.

The soldiers exchanged fire with the retreating policemen and chased them to the command office, where they burnt the main building along with dozens of cars parked in the police compound, several witnesses said.

A Red Cross official said three people were confirmed dead in the violence, with one body showing gunshot injuries. "We're not sure what exactly killed them," said the official on condition of anonymity.

Soldiers and police often clash in Nigeria, where decades of military rule have bolstered a feeling of superiority over the police force in the lower ranks of the army. But the end of military rule in 1999 has reduced the influence of the military, possibly fuelling inter-force rivalry as the police gain constitutional relevance.

Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu, who visited the scene of the smouldering police station later, told reporters that senior police and army officers had brought the situation under control.

"Whatever the problem is, we will get to the bottom of it and we will do our best to deal with it," Tinubu said.

Police Inspector General Sunday Ehindero called the clash a "minor incident" and said steps were being taken to prevent a repeat in future.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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