Suspected Islamic attack frees hundreds of prisoners in Nigeria | Nigeria

Hundreds of detainees, including dozens of terrorists, were on the run in Nigeria after suspected Islamist militants attacked a prison near the capital Abuja.

Gunmen armed with explosives fired into the medium-security Kuje prison on the outskirts of Abuja around 10 p.m. Tuesday, freeing nearly 900 of the prison’s 994 inmates, government officials said.

At least 443 of the 879 escapes were still missing late Wednesday, said Umar Abubakar, a spokesman for the Nigerian Correctional Service.

One guard was killed and three others were injured in the attack.

“They came in en masse, they entered the prison and released some inmates,” Nigerian Defense Minister Bashir Magashi said at a news conference near the prison on Wednesday morning.

Magashi speculated that the gunmen belonged to Boko Haram, but the attack was later claimed by Islamic State. He added: “The situation is under control.”

Later on Wednesday, the president, Muhammadu Buhari, visited the prison where senior officials showed him around the facility. He then tweeted that he was “saddened” by the attack and “disappointed” with Nigeria’s intelligence system.

“How can terrorists organize, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it?” asked Buhari.

Prison officials stand at a gate destroyed during the prison break in Kuje, near the capital Abuja
Prison officials investigate a gate destroyed during the prison break in Kuje. Photo: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Witnesses living near the prison said the attack lasted more than an hour, with security forces arriving long after the inmates escaped.

Iliya Makama, who lives nearby, said: “At about 10 pm we heard the sounds of gunshots that lasted for about 40 minutes. In between the firing we started to hear loud explosions.

“After a little over an hour they started running past my window. First I was on the ground with my wife… All this while there were no sirens or helicopter patrols from the police or soldiers.”

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Prison breaks are more common in Nigeria, where more than 1,800 inmates escaped from Owerri Prison in southeastern Imo state last year after heavily armed men were attacked with gunfire and explosives.

The attack in Kuje will raise fears about the increasing capacity of armed groups across Nigeria, who have launched daring attacks ever closer to the capital, with little to no resistance from overwhelmed and under-equipped security forces.

It came hours after gunmen attacked a forward convoy of Buhari’s security personnel in his home state of Katsina, in northwestern Nigeria, ahead of a scheduled visit by the president.

On Wednesday, the president’s spokesman said: “Attackers opened fire on the convoy from ambushes, but were repelled by the military, police and DSS personnel accompanying the convoy. Two people in the convoy are being treated for minor injuries they sustained. All other personnel, personnel and vehicles have reached Daura safely.”

Unrest has escalated in Africa’s most populous country, with security forces fighting on various fronts, from a 13-year-old jihadist insurgency in the northeast to “bandit” terrorist and jihadist groups in the northwest, kidnappings for ransom and terrorizing rural communities.

The movement of jihadist groups from the northeast to northern and central Nigeria, forming alliances with other armed groups, has sparked growing unrest. In the state of Niger, local government officials have said the groups have effectively taken over communities just a few hundred kilometers from Abuja, taking advantage of the lack of security in rural areas.

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