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Nigerian Security Forces Open Fire During Protest Against Police Brutality

TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

Nigerian security forces opened fire on protesters tonight in Lagos.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Everyone, sit down. Sit down. Sit down.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

MOSLEY: The violence follows nearly two weeks of peaceful protests against police brutality that have brought Africa's largest city to a standstill. NPR's Eyder Peralta is following developments in Nairobi.

And Eyder, what's the latest?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: So the government announced a 4 p.m. curfew this morning. But protesters across the city - they just stayed in place, including at this site at the Lekki Bridge, which is iconic in Lagos. And it had been a central meeting place for protesters. But as the sun set, witnesses say that security forces opened fire on the crowd. Local news outlets are reporting casualties, but it's not clear how many injured or how many people may have been killed.

I spoke to local filmmaker Kiki Mordi, and she had been going to the protests. But she heard authorities might be targeting her, so she stayed home today. And she watched a friend's live Instagram feed from the bridge, and she saw as the shooting broke out. And she says, you know, the government announced the curfew too late. So even if protesters wanted to leave, she said, they didn't have time. Let's listen to what she told me.

KIKI MORDI: So there was no way that they were going to be able to get back home today in time. It's OK. I'm just - yeah, I don't know what to say.

PERALTA: She was emotional because the scene in the footage is just - it's horrific. It shows demonstrators trying to save other demonstrators. They're applying pressure to gunshot wounds. They're crying for help. Kiki says that this came as a surprise to her. But the government and the military - they had been issuing veiled threats. They had been telling protesters to go home.

MOSLEY: Eyder, what has triggered the protests in the first place?

PERALTA: So people went out to the streets because of a video of a police shooting. And they took to the streets 12 days ago now to demand that the government disband this notorious, brutal and corrupt police squad. The president did order the unit disbanded, but the protesters - they wanted prosecutions.

And another big part of this, though, is that these protests have been full of young people. And in Nigeria, young people have many grievances. Over the past few years, unemployment rate has shot up to 27%. So you have young people, many with college degrees, sitting at home without prospects. And I should note that these are the largest and longest-lasting protests Nigeria has seen since the 1980s.

MOSLEY: Oh, wow. And the governor of Lagos has ordered a state-ordered investigation on reports of alleged shootings. That's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Nairobi following events in Lagos, Nigeria, Africa's largest city.

Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.