Africa News Security

More than 1,800 prisoners escape jail in south-east Nigeria

Almost 2,000 prisoners have escaped after a jailbreak in south-east Nigeria blamed on armed separatists, in the latest in a string of armed attacks on law enforcement authorities.

A prison facility and police command centre in the city of Owerri, Imo state, was targeted early on Monday by gunmen who destroyed part of the prison walls with explosives, freeing 1,844 inmates. One police officer was shot and injured in the attack.

No group claimed responsibility for the assault, though President Muhammadu Buhari called the attack an “act of terrorism” carried out by anarchists and urged security forces to capture the assailants and the escaped detainees. 

The governor of neighboring Abia state imposed a night curfew on two towns there, a statement said, to protect local residents without direct reference to the prison attack.  

Imo state is part of a region that has long been a hotbed for Nigerian separatist groups and where tensions between federal authorities and the indigenous Igbo population are often high. 

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) separatist movement has recently been posting videos on social media of dozens of its militiamen in training. 

Authorities imposed a curfew on parts of Imo state earlier this year after clashes between the army and the local militia. 

But IPOB spokesman Emmanuel Powerful rejected any involvement in the Imo prison attack in a statement sent to AFP, dismissing any accusations. 

Calls for a separate state of Biafra in the south are a sensitive subject in Nigeria, after a unilateral declaration of independence from British rule in 1967 sparked a brutal 30-month civil war. 

Buhari is facing several security challenges including a more than decadelong jihadist insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast, a spate of mass kidnappings by criminal gangs in the northwest, and a surge in piracy on commercial shipping in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast. 

By: Agence France-Presse

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