(Al Jazeera Media Network) At least eight Nigerian police officers have been killed in attacks by suspected rebels in the country’s southeast just days ahead of presidential elections.
The killings come as more than 90 million people are registered to vote this Saturday to elect a successor to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Bihari, who is stepping down after two terms in office.
Four officers were killed in an attack on a police station in Anambra state on Monday, local police spokesperson Tochukwu Ikenga said, while authorities are searching for suspects in the killing of four other police officers in two separate attacks over the weekend.
The rebels “attacked Awada police station in Idemilli North … using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and automatic firearms,” Ikenga said of Monday’s attack.
“Four police operatives paid the supreme price while a section of the station, one police patrol vehicle, and three exhibit vehicles parked in the premises were set ablaze,” he said in a statement.
Three of the attackers were also “fatally wounded,” and two others were arrested, he added.
Police have blamed the attacks on a rebel group known as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which is fighting for the independence of the ethnic Igbo people in southeast Nigeria. The IPOB and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network, have denied responsibility for the frequent attacks in the region.
The violence has stoked fears about the ability of Nigeria’s security forces to protect voters at the polls this weekend.
Festus Okoye, an official with Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said the commission might not be able to deploy to some polling stations because of security concerns.
“The security agencies have promised that they have the capacity to secure our communities to make it possible for people to vote,” he said.
“[But] for people in zones that are still in conflict, there is absolutely nothing we can do.”
Nigeria faces multiple security threats, including separate armed groups fighting for different causes in the southeast and northeast, and kidnapping gangs involved in criminality in the northwest.