Nigeria’s government: CNN report that ‘hundreds’ of civilians killed is ‘fake news’

LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigeria’s government on Wednesday denied a CNN report claiming more than 90 civilians were killed in a military crackdown on protesters over the rising cost of living in the megacity of Lagos.

Rising food and fuel prices have prompted two weeks of protests in the mega-city, a sprawling collection of islands and dense suburbs near the booming commercial capital of Lagos. Protesters have clashed with police in several incidents, with deadly results.

On Tuesday night, at least five civilians were killed by military gunfire when soldiers broke up a peaceful protest outside a mall in the Lagos suburb of Lekki, according to witnesses, who cited a well-organized military force and bystanders as witnesses.

About a dozen others were injured, and some were taken away on stretchers, the witnesses said.

CNN published a report Wednesday citing five witnesses and other journalists, said witnesses who identified themselves as the victims’ relatives, as well as eight other journalists it quoted who said they had their sources confirmed the deaths.

On Wednesday, the Nigerian government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, said in a statement that the CNN report was “fake news.”

“There are no such incidences of deaths as reported by CNN,” the statement said.

Buhari spoke on the telephone with CNN’s James Younger, the statement said, but he “is not aware of these incidences and is not privy to such information in respect of such incidences.”

The statement warned “that the alleged incidents depicted in the CNN report would be investigated by the National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress party.”

Military authorities have not yet commented on the CNN report.

Nigeria has become a prime target for Islamist insurgents and Shiite Muslim militias in recent years. But a perceived lack of care for people’s well-being is fueling popular anger.

The military has shown growing aggressiveness as the protests have escalated, residents have reported.

“There is a fear here for the next four years,” said Ibrahim Yinusa, a resident of Lekki in a phone interview. “If you are not a supporter of the government, nothing happens to you.”

Another resident said he saw a six-year-old boy shot in the leg and 10-year-old boy shot in the chest.

Ali Suleiman, a journalist in Lagos, said he went to Lekki on Tuesday night to report on the shooting.

“As soon as I got to the spot where the shooting took place, a crowd of around 40 people, some with broken bones, started crying for help,” he said. “It was then I saw five people being taken away from the scene.”

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