Nigerian separatists claim police killed eight people during violent protests demanding an independent Biafran state in southeastern Nigeria and the release of a detained leader. Police deny the allegation from leaders of a cause that sparked a civil war in the 1960s that killed a million people.

Uchenna Madu, leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the State of Biafra, said police shot protesters Monday in southeastern Aba city. Abia state police spokesman Ezekiel Onyeke said no one was killed and police fired only tear gas and smoke grenades to disperse protesters after some lobbed petrol bombs at security forces.

Onyeke said police arrested 26 people for possessing weapons including machetes, axes and clubs.

Fourteen other people have been killed and 200 detained since the protests started in October.