The attorney for Nigerian activist Nnamdi Kanu, head of the Biafran separatist movement, has confirmed that Kanu is in Israel following the first sighting of him in more than a year – but Israeli authorities say they’re not so sure.
Kanu appeared in a video shot at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, wearing a prayer shawl and yarmulke, according to Israeli media sources. His appearance there was streamed on social media on Friday, and appeared to offer his followers proof that Kanu was alive and well.
However, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel has no evidence that Kanu is in their country. He was speaking during an unrelated meeting with African journalists.
Kanu fled after his home in Umuahia was raided by Nigerian security forces in September 2017. At that time, the Nigerian government declared his group a terrorist organization because it appeared to transition from a political movement to an armed uprising with the formation of a Biafran National Guard and access to weapons.
“The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group which has posed to be a security challenge in the country, has been metamorphosing from one stage to the other,” the defense statement said. Kanu, who also holds British citizenship, was arrested in Nigeria on treason and other charges before leaving the country.
The Biafra movement, a renewed version of the quest for a separate Igbo state that brought devastating war to Nigeria in the late 1960s, saw numerous episodes of violence in recent years. An Amnesty International report released in November 2016 found at least 150 Biafran activists had been killed, with evidence of human rights violations and political repression.