At least one woman has been killed in a raging battle between Nigeria soldiers and the Eastern Security Network (ESN) in Orlu, reports say.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) said it founded ESN to defend Nigeria’s South-East against herdsmen attacks and other threats.
IPOB, led by cessationist Nnamdi Kanu, also wants their own country of Biafra.
The Nigerian Army seemed to have located the ESN after weeks of search and surveillance.
A video shared online showed a woman lying in a pool of her own blood. Observers say she was likely hit by a stray bullet.
Another video showed men armed men dressed in army uniform taking tactical positions as they advanced along streets in Orlu area of Imo.
The soldiers were reportedly firing live rounds.
Another video showed armed men driving towards trouble spots in several vehicles. They appeared to be from ESN.
The army and ESN are clashing as we speak with residents forced to stay indoors.
An uncertain number of people are feared dead and property destroyed, Daily Trust reported.
The crisis had been brewing since last week after a clash between ESN volunteers and police resulted in deaths. The security agencies were then said to have planned a reprisal.
Witnesses report sporadic shooting and residents took cover to avoid stray bullets. The shooting was heard as far as neighbouring communities of Okporo, Akata and Umutanze.
The soldiers were said to be drawn from the 34 Artillery Brigade in Obinze.
Military checkpoints have been erected on roads and travellers are being advised to avoid using Orlu road or even move about by night.
One witness said he counted 16 low-flying aircraft over the town.
This is not the first time the Nigerian government would clamp down on IPOB which it considers a terrorist group.