The Asaba Massacre was one of the many evils perpetrated by the Nigerian Federal forces during the Civil War.
Asaba Massacre occurred in October 1967 in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria.
In August 1967, one month into the Biafran War, Biafran troops invaded the Mid-Western Region, to the west of the River Niger. They spread west, taking Benin City and reaching as far as Ore, where they were pushed back by the Nigerian Second Division, under the command of Col. Murtala Muhammed.
The Federal troops gained the upper hand and forced the Biafrans back to Niger, where they crossed the bridge back into the Biafran city of Onitsha, which lies directly across from Asaba. The Biafrans blew up the eastern spans of the Onitsha bridge so that the Federal troops were unable to pursue them.
The Nigerian Federal troops entered Asaba around 5th October 1967 and began searching houses and killing civilians, labeling them Biafran sympathizers.
Reports suggest that several hundreds may have been killed individually and in groups at various locations in the town.
Leaders summoned the townspeople to assemble on the morning of 7 October, hoping to end the violence through a show of support for “One Nigeria.” Hundreds of men, women, and children, many wearing the ceremonial akwa ocha, paraded along the main street, singing, dancing, and chanting “One Nigeria.”
At a junction, men and teenage boys were separated from women and young children, and gathered in an open square at Ogbe-Osowa village.
Federal troops showed their machine guns, and were reportedly ordered by Second-in-Command, Maj. Ibrahim Taiwo, (while some other reports say Murtala Muhammed) to open fire. It is estimated that more than 700 men and boys were killed, some as young as 12 years old, in addition to many more killed in the preceding days.
The bodies of some victims were retrieved by family members and buried at home. But most were buried in mass graves, without any appropriate ceremony.
Many extended families lost dozens of men and boys. Federal troops occupied Asaba for many months, during which most of the town was destroyed, many women and girls were raped or forcibly “married,” and large numbers of citizens fled, often not returning until the war ended in 1970. The total death toll during early October was in excess of 1,000, although the exact numbers will likely never be known.