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The 1966 anti-Igbo pogrom was a series of massacres directed at Igbo and other southern Nigerian residents throughout Nigeria before and after the overthrow (and assassination) of the Aguiyi-Ironsi junta by Murtala Mohammed.
In 1966, Nigeria was in her sixth year of self-rule. This period had been marred by the chaotic elections in the western Yoruba region of the country and the Tiv riots in the Middle-Belt provinces of the Northern Region. In a coup led by idealistic - mostly young Igbo - officers on January 15, 1966, the Prime Minister, and other prominent politicians of Mostly Northern origin were killed. The coup failed, being ultimately put down by the most senior Army officer, Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi, who also happened to be Igbo. In what has been said to be a thorough misreading of the mood of the country, Aguiyi-Ironsi - in a bid to do away with the divisive tendencies of Regionalism - dissolved the regions and declared Nigeria a Unitary republic. The first riots in the north occurred in May 1966. These were spontaneous (although there is an aprochyphal anecdote that they were provoked by a brand of bread named after the defacto leader of the first coup, Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, who was depicted on the bread wrapping standing in the pose made popular by the painting of Saint George and the Dragon. The late Sardauna of Sokoto, killed in the January 1966 coup, was caricatured as the dragon). The May riots fizzled out and the Igbos who had fled to the Eastern Region - their home region - were given a guarantee of safety by General Ironsi and returned. Ironsi was killed in a coup, this time led by mostly Northern Officers, in July 1966. This coup was noteworthy for its bloodiness. It degenerated into four days of bloodletting by the plotters; Southern army officers - mostly Igbo - were killed. There is an indication that the plotters, led by Major Murtala Mohammed, had planned to secede with the Northern region from Nigeria. But the power vacuum created by the success of their coup meant that they ruled the young republic. In September of that year the second incident of riots in the North of the country began. Estimates of civilians killed by the mobs run into the tens of thousands.
The pogroms led to the mass movement of Igbo and other Eastern Nigerians back to Eastern Nigeria. It also was the precursor to Ojukwu's declaration of Eastern Nigeria's secession from the federation as the Republic of Biafra, and the resulting Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970).
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