Five weeks after its secession from Nigeria, the breakaway Republic of Biafra is attacked by Nigerian government forces. Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu had proclaimed the independence of Nigeria’s Eastern Region, home to the Igbo people, in response to the massacre of Igbos elsewhere in Nigeria. General Yakubu Gowon, the leader of the Nigerian federal government, refused to recognize Biafra’s secession and on July 6 ordered an invasion.
In the subsequent fighting, Ojukwu’s forces made some initial advances, but Nigeria’s superior military gradually reduced territory claimed by Biafra. The nascent state lost its oil fields–its main source of revenue–and without the funds to import food, roughly 1 million of the area’s civilians died as a result of severe malnutrition. In 1970, Biafra surrendered to Nigeria.