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Nigeria raid leaves 35 dead

THIRTY-FIVE people were reported dead and hundreds missing from the town of Kaa, in Nigeria's south-eastern Ogoni region, after an attack by a neighbouring ethnic group.

Witnesses said armed Andoni people, backed by men in Nigerian military uniforms, attacked on Wednesday with assault rifles, hand grenades and tear-gas.

On the road leading into the village of several thousand people, the attackers chalked a message. 'They said there would be no Ogoni kingdom,' said Adolphus Mesuadebari, a Kaa leader.

It was the most serious outbreak of violence in Ogoni, a 400-square-mile region of 500,000 people in the oil- producing area near the city of Port Harcourt. The Ogoni, led by the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, have launched a non-violent campaign for autonomy, greater control over revenues and increased compensation for damage caused by oil spillages from Shell, which pumps the oil in partnership with the state-owned Nigerian oil company.

Mr Saro-Wiwa's group, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop), accused Nigerian security forces of attempting to undermine their campaign by arming the Andonis to attack them and foment ethnic warfare. 'What is happening in Ogoni is a deliberate arrangement by the Nigerian authorities to stop our movement,' Olua Kamalu, vice-president of Mosop, told a rally of 300 people in Gokana at the weekend. 'We are being killed today because we are demanding our rights.'

Owens Wiwa, Mr Saro-Wiwa's brother, said all Ogoni members of the police had been withdrawn from the region three weeks ago. 'So we thought something was going to happen,' he said. The coastal town of Tenama was attacked on Friday night, he said.

Several hundred residents of the now-deserted Kaa gathered on Saturday in the neighbouring village of Eekwe in a tense meeting to discuss how to feed, clothe and house themselves. Maria Nwiku said her husband and three children were killed in the attack. She suffered a bullet wound in the left leg as she fled from the porch of her house.

'They started coming from the waterside, entered the market, but when they went into town, they started shooting,' said Mr Mesuadebari. 'If we had guns, we would have stayed and defended ourselves. But we had no weapons, so we ran away.'