DAKAR, Senegal — The Nigerian authorities say they’re looking for about 1,800 inmates who escaped from a jail aided by closely armed gunmen in the southeastern nook of the nation, the place anti-government separatists have lengthy been energetic.
The authorities laid blame for the jailbreak on a insurgent group that promotes the decades-old trigger of secession for Nigeria’s southeastern nook, popularly generally known as Biafra.
The escapes got here as safety has been declining in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, the place kidnapping has grow to be rife and the military has been deployed to reply to safety threats, together with terrorism and banditry, in virtually each state.
Prison officers stated that early on Monday morning, males armed with subtle weapons arrived at a jail in Owerri, in southeastern Imo State. They exchanged hearth with safety personnel, in line with jail officers, after which used explosives to blast their approach into the jail yard.
Nigeria’s safety companies have launched a search operation to recapture the inmates. They put the quantity of escapees at 1,844.
Prison officers stated in a press release that they had been “appealing to the good citizens of Imo State and indeed Nigerians to volunteer useful intelligence that will facilitate the recovery effort.”
They stated all officers at different prisons ought to “remain vigilant at this trying moment in our history,” suggesting concern about additional jail breaks.
Just a few prisoners had been trickling again into custody, accompanied by their family or attorneys, Francis Enobore, a spokesman for the jail system in Nigeria, stated in a WhatsApp trade. Thirty-five inmates refused to go away when the jailbreak occurred, he stated.
The police stated that the attackers had been members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, a secessionist group that has been banned in Nigeria since 2017 and is designated as a “militant terrorist organization” by the federal government.
But a spokesperson for the Indigenous People of Biafra denied that the group — or its paramilitary wing, the Eastern Security Network — had been concerned.
“E.S.N. is in the bush chasing terrorists and have no business with the said attacks,” the spokesperson, Emma Powerful, stated in a press release. “It is not our mandate to attack security personnel or prison facilities.”
There had been no casualties among the many police, who repelled an assault on the armory on the jail, in line with Frank Mba, a police spokesman.