People of southeastern Nigeria. The Igbo speak dialects of Igbo, a Benue-Congo language of the Niger-Congo family (seeNiger-Congo languages). Before European colonization the Igbo lived in autonomous local communities, but by the mid 20th century they had developed a strong sense of ethnic identity. During conflicts in 1966 many Igbo in northern Nigeria were killed or forced into their traditional homelands in the east. In 1967 the Eastern region tried to secede from Nigeria as the independent nation of Biafra; hundreds of thousands of Igbo were killed or died of starvation. Today they number some 20 million. Many are farmers, but trading, crafts, and wage labour are also important, and many have become civil servants and business entrepreneurs.