LAGOS, Nigeria -- The government Friday executed 42 soldiers who staged an aborted coup during April in a bid to topple President Ibrahim Babangida and bring greater autonomy to Nigeria's Christian-dominated states.
Chief of General Staff Vice-Admiral Augustus Aikhomu said the executions took place Friday afternoon.
He did not specify how the soldiers died, but the usual execution method is by firing squad.
Among those killed was ringleader Maj. Gideon Orkar, who had commanded the April 22 attack and prematurely announced Babangida's downfall on national radio.
In his broadcast, Orkar accused the regime of being 'dictatorial, corrupt, drug-baronish, inhumane, sadistic, homosexually-centered and unpatriotic.'
Orkar also said he had seized power on behalf of the country's Christian-dominated southern and central areas, which he claimed had been 'reduced to slavery' by the mostly Moslem north.
Most analysts believe that if the coup had succeeded, Nigeria would have been plunged into another civil war.
Officials have released no casualty figures, but the daylong uprising involved heavy combat in central Lagos around vital facilities and the Dodan barracks where Babangida lives.
It was the second attempt to oust Babangida since he seized power in 1985. In December 1985, 14 soldiers were accused of plotting to overthrow the government and subsequently executed.
Although the latest attempt was widely held as ill-conceived, Babangida's reputation for strong leadership has been dented. In the weeks following the attempt, numerous journalists were detained and several newspapers forcibly closed.
Despite a nationwide search and a large reward for information, 11 army officers and two civilians suspected of backing the coup have never been captured.
In London, the human rights group Amnesty International had appealed to Nigeria to stay the executions, saying the trial was unfair.