Suspected Islamist attack frees hundreds of prisoners in Nigeria – The Guardian

Inmates on the run after gunmen armed with explosives attack prison near capital, Abuja
Hundreds of prisoners, including scores of terrorists, were on the run in Nigeria after suspected Islamist militants attacked a prison near the capital, Abuja.
Gunmen armed with explosives blasted into Kuje medium-security prison, on the outskirts of Abuja, at about 10pm on Tuesday, freeing nearly 900 of the prison’s 994 inmates, government officials said.
At least 443 of the 879 escapers were still missing late on Wednesday, said Umar Abubakar, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Correctional Service.
One prison guard was killed in the attack and three others injured.
“They came in numbers, they gained entrance into the prison and they released some of the inmates,” Nigeria’s defence minister, Bashir Magashi, said at a press briefing 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 organise, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it?” Buhari asked.
Witnesses living near the prison facility said the attack lasted for more than an hour, with security forces arriving at the scene long after the inmates had escaped.
Iliya Makama, who lives nearby, said: “At about 10pm we heard the sounds of gunshots continuing for about 40 minutes. In between the shooting we started hearing loud explosions.
“After a little over an hour, they started running past my window. At first I was lying down on the floor with my wife … All this while there were no sirens or helicopter patrol from the police or soldiers.”
Prison breaks have become more common in Nigeria, where last year more than 1,800 prisoners escaped from Owerri prison in the south-eastern Imo state, after heavily armed men attacked with gunfire and explosives.
The attack in Kuje will cement fears about the increasing capacity of armed groups across Nigeria, which have launched daring attacks increasingly close to the capital, with little to no resistance from overwhelmed and under-equipped security forces.
It came hours after gunmen attacked an advance convoy of Buhari’s security personnel, in his home state of Katsina, north-west Nigeria, before a scheduled visit by the president.
On Wednesday, the president’s spokesperson said: “Attackers opened fire on the convoy from ambush positions but were repelled by the military, police and DSS personnel accompanying the convoy. Two persons in the convoy are receiving treatment for the minor injuries they suffered. All the other personnel, staff and vehicles made it safely to Daura.”
Unrest has increased across Africa’s most populous country, with security forces fighting on several fronts, from a 13-year jihadist insurgency in the north-east, to “bandit” terrorist and jihadist groups across the north-west, kidnapping for ransom and terrorising rural communities.
The movement of jihadist groups from the north-east to northern and central Nigeria, forming alliances with other armed groups, has caused growing alarm. In Niger state, local government officials have said the groups have in effect taken over communities only a few hundred kilometres from Abuja, exploiting the lack of rural security.

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