Biafran Jews mark 50 years since failed bid for independence
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Biafran Jews mark 50 years since failed bid for independence

The secessionist state existed from 1967 to 1970, and plunged Nigeria into a bloody civil war that cost over a million lives

  • Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) supporters and members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrate Shabbat in Umuahia, on May 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI
    Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) supporters and members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrate Shabbat in Umuahia, on May 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI
  • Supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region), celebrate Shabbat outside the movement's leader Nnamdi Kanu in Umuahia, on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI)
    Supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region), celebrate Shabbat outside the movement's leader Nnamdi Kanu in Umuahia, on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI)
  • Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants and members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrate Shabbat outside the house of the movement's leader Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahia on May 27, 2017.  (AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS)
    Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants and members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrate Shabbat outside the house of the movement's leader Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahia on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS)
  • Supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrate Shabbat outside the residence of the movement's leader Nnamdi Kanu in Umuahia, on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI)
    Supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrate Shabbat outside the residence of the movement's leader Nnamdi Kanu in Umuahia, on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI)
  • Members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants and of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrates Shabbat outside the house of the movement's leader Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahai on May 27, 2017.  (AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS)
    Members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants and of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrates Shabbat outside the house of the movement's leader Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahai on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS)
  • Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants and members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrate Shabbat outside the house of the movement’s leader Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahai on May 27, 2017.  (AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS)
    Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants and members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrate Shabbat outside the house of the movement’s leader Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahai on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS)
  • A boy dances during Shabbat celebration gathering Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants and members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) outside the house of the movement’s leader Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahai on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS)
    A boy dances during Shabbat celebration gathering Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants and members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) outside the house of the movement’s leader Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahai on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS)
  • A member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants and of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrates Shabbat outside the house of the movement’s leader Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahai on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS)
    A member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants and of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrates Shabbat outside the house of the movement’s leader Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahai on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS)
  • Supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrate Shabbat outside the residence of the movement's leader Nnamdi Kanu in Umuahia, on May 27, 2017.  (AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI)
    Supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), members of the Yahveh Yashua Synagogue (Yisraelities Biafra Region) celebrate Shabbat outside the residence of the movement's leader Nnamdi Kanu in Umuahia, on May 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI)

Nigeria on Tuesday marks 50 years since the declaration of an independent Republic of Biafra plunged the country into a civil war, amid renewed tensions and fresh calls for a separate state.

The main pro-independence groups — the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) — have called for a day of reflection.

Among the IPOB are one of the largest ethnic groups in the central African nation, the Igbo people, and among them is a small minority of practicing Jews, who believe they are descended from the tribes of Israel.

During the last 30 years or so, many Igbo Jews have moved to match their tradition of Jewish descent with the practice of rabbinic Judaism, the learning of Hebrew, observance of kosher dietary laws and observance of Jewish holidays. Many Igbo Jews are passionately Zionist.

In 1970, after nearly three years of fighting, Biafran soldiers, who were outnumbered 10 to one by federal troops and under-equipped, laid down their arms.

The conflict caused an estimated million deaths, many of them by starvation after the secessionist region was blockaded.

With surrender went their dreams of a separate state for the Igbo people, who are the majority in the southeast.

Half a century later, Biafra remains an extremely sensitive subject in Nigeria.

 

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