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In the investigation published on Wednesday, CNN said it examined bullet casings found at the scene and confirmed with current and former Nigerian military sources that the bullet casings match those used by the army. Two ballistics experts have also confirmed with CNN that the shape of the bullet casings indicate they used live rounds, which contradicts the army’s claim they fired blanks.
Also, working with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, CNN established that several of the bullets from the Lekki tollgate originated from Serbia. Export documents CNN has seen show that Nigeria purchased weaponry from Serbia almost every year between 2005 and 2016.
The investigation revealed that soldiers who carried out the operation were from Bonny Camp barracks, Victoria Island.
Two eyewitnesses told CNN they saw soldiers arriving in a Toyota Hilux pickup truck with “OP Awatse” written on it — the name of a joint military task force that operates in Lagos State.
Videos examined by CNN show the army trucks approaching the protesters from both sides of the toll gate and barricaded them in. The shooting started almost immediately, with no warning given. Panic ensued as protesters attempted to flee.
From multiple videos, CNN has pieced together a timeline that shows that shooting by the army lasted from 6:43 p.m. until at least 8:24 p.m., according to video evidence.
The videos capturing some of those 101 minutes tell a story of terror and chaos. They show graphic injuries and people bleeding on the ground.
One eyewitness, whom CNN identified Sarah, said that the soldiers shot in the air but also directly at protesters.
“They pointed their guns at us and they started shooting,” she said. “They were shooting in the air, they were shooting at us, they were shooting everywhere.”
Some chanted: “We are peaceful protesters” and “ENDEARS, we no go gree [pidgin for we will not agree, or give in].”
In several of the videos, reviewed and verified by CNN, some of the protesters can be seen carrying bodies, the flashlights on their phones the only thing illuminating the darkness as the sound of ambulance sirens wail in the background. It is not known whether these were dead or injured protesters.
In another, there are several injured people, some on the ground bleeding while defiant protesters continued to wave Nigerian flags.
Injured people whom CNN has confirmed were present at the toll gate started arriving in local hospitals carried by civilians from 7:19 p.m. while the shooting was still ongoing, according to videos analyzed by CNN.
The revelation of investigation is contrary to claims by the army that its men fired only blank bullets into the air to disperse the protesters.
Ahmed Taiwo, Commander of the 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, stated this before the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Saturday.
He added that such blank bullets cannot cause any serious damage to life, citing that a live bullet had the power to kill three people with one shot.
Taiwo also told the panel that no casualty was recorded by the soldiers during their report.