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LAGOS: Fighting spread deep into breakaway Eastern Nigeria today [July 16] and plans were started to airlift more than 2,000 foreigners from the war zone.

Federal forces, thrusting forward to try to crush the secessionist region’s regime, were reported to be battling breakaway troops as far away as Abakaliki, 40 miles south-west of Enugu.

Forty-one miles north of the breakaway capital, Federal troops were consolidating their position in the key university city of Nsukka, whose capture was announced yesterday.

Meanwhile, a chartered DC-6 plane was standing by in Lagos and two other planes were being brought from Accra for the evacuation, informed sources said. The two planes coming from Accra took part in the evacuation of 1,000 foreigners from Port Harcourt to Lagos before the Federal forces launched their attack 11 days ago.

There are estimated to be about 1,500 British and Commonwealth citizens, 800 Americans and other nationalities including 60 Germans and 40 Swiss in the East.

Military sources here said breakaway forces were expected to make a stand on the road leading to Enugu, headquarters of secessionist leader Lieutenant-Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu.

[Meanwhile, as reported by our correspondent in London,] China’s first space satellite, which will form part of its inter-continental ballistic missile programme, is expected to be launched within a year [July 16]. A probable date is China’s next National Day on Oct 1.

The development of medium- and long-range missiles by China is much faster than the Soviet or the American programme. The first Soviet inter-continental ballistic missile was tested in 1957 and the American a year later.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017