Abagana Ambush

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Abagana Ambush
Part of Nigerian Civil War
Date 31 March 1968
Location Abagana
Result Biafran victory
 Nigeria  Biafra
Commanders and leaders
Murtala Muhammad Jonathan Uchendu[nb 1]
6000[nb 2] 700[4]
Casualties and losses
5800-5900[5][8][7] Few

The Abagana Ambush (March 31, 1968) was a military ambush by Biafran guerrilla troops led by Major Jonathan Uchendu that lost to the Nigerian 2 Division.[9] Of the 100 Nigerian troops ambushed, only very few survived including General [[Murtala Muhammad] who later became nigeria's head of state


On October 4, 1967 the Nigerian 2nd Division began bombarding Onitsha and continued the assault for eight days before a 10 boat armada crossed the Niger River into the city. The occupying Nigerians didn't pursue retreating Biafran soldiers and instead opted to loot and burn the Onitsha market to the ground. The Biafran 11th and 18th Battalions under Maj. Joseph Achuzie and Col. Assam Nsudoh formed a pincer and attacked Onitsha from two directions, capturing and killing most Nigerian soldiers. In December 1967 the Nigerian 2nd Division an 6th Battalion crossed the Niger River at Idah and began making their way towards Onitsha, finally capturing the City after several attempts. The Nigerian Forces now intended to link up the 1st Division at Enugu with the 2nd Division at Onitsha. To this end the Nigerian 2nd Division moves out towards Enugu in a long convoy supported by armored cars on 31 March 1968.[4]


On March 31, 1968 a 106 vehicle convoy of the Nigerian 2nd Division transporting 6000 infantry as well as armor from Onitsha to Enugu was ambushed and decimated in the town of Abagana by a small troop of Biafran soldiers led by Maj. Jonathan Uchendu. Homemade Ogbunigwe rocket missiles were launched by the Biafrans at a tanker truck carrying gasoline which caused an enormous explosion that tossed armored cars like tin cans.[10] 350 tons of equipment were destroyed or captured by the Biafran troops.[7][5]


The successful ambush at Abagana gave both Biafran soldiers and civilians hope in the war as well as temporarily halting the Nigerian advance into Biafran territory. General Murtala Mohammed was relieved of his command and never commanded a division again.[7][10]


  1. ^ Though John de St. Jorre mentions Colonel Joseph Achuzie as commander of the operation,[1] Major-General Alexander Madiebo (General Officer Commanding the Biafran Army) credits Major Uchendu.[2] Chinua Achebe and others also credit Uchendu. From all indications, Achuzie was the commanding officer of Uchendu`s division and strategically planned the operation, while Uchendu led the actual ambush. [3][4]
  2. ^ International journalists present in Biafra at the time like Frederick Forsyth, Gilles Caron and other authors give the strength of the ambushed Nigerian troops as 100 men supported by armor, of which almost all were lost.[5][6][7] Chinua Achebe gives the much lower figure of about 50 Nigerian troops.[3] All sources state that the convoy was about 10 vehicles long including troop transport, ammunition transport, tankers and armored cars.


  1. ^ de St. Jorre, John (2012). The Brothers' War: Biafra and Nigeria. Faber and Faber. ISBN 9780571287376. 
  2. ^ Oyewẹsọ, Syan (1992). The post-Gowon Nigerian accounts of the Civil War, 1975 - 1990: a preliminary review. Africa Peace Research Institute, Lagos. p. 17. 
  3. ^ a b Achebe, Chinua (2012). There was a country. Penguin. ISBN 9780141973678. 
  4. ^ a b c Osuji, Steve (23 October 2012). "'There was a country': Ogbunigwe, Abagana ambush; Achebe, Okigbo and Ifeajuna". The Nation Online. Archived from the original on 18 December 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Forsyth, Frederick (1971). The Biafra Story: The Making of an African Legend. ISBN 1848846061. 
  6. ^ Caron, Gilles (1968). La Mort du Biafra: Photographies du Gilles Caron. Presentation de F. de Bonneville, Paris Solar. 
  7. ^ a b c d Baxter, Peter (2014). Biafra The Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970. Helion & Co Ltd. p. 31-50. ISBN 9781909982369. 
  8. ^ Alabi-Isama, Godwin. The Tragedy of Victory: On-the-spot Account of the Nigeria-Biafra War in the Atlantic Theatre. Spectrum Books Limited, Ibadan. ISBN 9789789260393. 
  9. ^ Appiah, Kwame Anthony; Gates, Henry Louis (2005). Africana (2ème éd. ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 453. ISBN 9780195170559. 
  10. ^ a b Nwadike, Jerome (2010). A BIAFRAN SOLDIER’S SURVIVAL FROM THE JAWS OF DEATH: NIGERIAN – BIAFRAN CIVIL WAR. p. 57. ISBN 9781453513811.