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Multiple #EndSARS protesters reportedly shot dead, authorities investigating one fatality

Witnesses say Nigerian soldiers opened fire on peaceful protesters, killing several; the army has denied this as “fake news.”

End SARS protest Twitter / @QuickTake

Multiple protesters have been wounded or fatally shot during a protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, several outlets have reported. According to witnesses and human rights organization Amnesty International, Nigerian soldiers opened fire on a group of peaceful protesters on Tuesday (Oct. 20).

However, State Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has denied this, saying there has only been one death and 25 people injured after an “unfortunate shooting incident.” According to the governor, authorities are investigating the sole fatality.

Demonstrations on Tuesday ended with a government-imposed curfew after two weeks of protests against the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). According to BBC, witnesses said uniformed men opened fire on a suburb in Lekki Tuesday evening. Soldiers were also seen barricading the protest site before shots rang out.

One unidentified witness told the outlet: “[Soldiers] pulled up... and they started firing directly [at protesters].”

“They were firing and they were advancing straight at us,” they added. “It was chaos. Somebody got hit straight beside me and he died on the spot.”

Social media videos also showed people tending to wounded protesters after the shooting. Speaking with Reuters, four other witnesses corroborated that the army opened fire on demonstrators.

“They were firing into the crowd,” 55-year-old Alfred Ononugbo said. “I saw the bullet hit one or two persons.”

Nigeria’s Premium Times also quoted witnesses who claimed around 12 people had died. On Twitter, Amnesty International Nigeria said it had “received credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters at Lekki toll gate in Lagos.”

People were killed at the tollgate by security forces,” Amnesty International spokesman Isa Sanusi later said in a statement. “We are working on verifying how many.”

In a statement released on Wednesday (Oct. 21), President Muhammadu Buhari said the dissolution of SARS was “the first step in a set of reform policies that will deliver a police system accountable to the Nigerian people.”

His office did not directly respond to the shootings, but said the administration “wishes to reiterate the full commitment... to the implementation of lasting police reforms in Nigeria.”

The army has not released an official statement on the shootings, but discredited witness reports of multiple protester deaths as “fake news” on Twitter.

Tuesday was not the first time Nigerian soldiers have been accused of shooting unarmed protesters. Demonstrations against SARS began two weeks ago, as protesters called for the disbanding of the police unit amidst allegations of illegal detentions, assaults and shootings.

President Buhari dissolved SARS on Oct. 11, but protesters are still calling for more reform regarding government corruption and other security forces.

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