Over 1,800 prisoners have escaped after heavily armed men attacked a jail in southeast Nigeria in the early morning hours of April 5, prison authorities said.
According to the Nigerian Correctional Service, gunmen arrived in several pick-up vans and buses and used explosives to blast their way into a prison facility in Owerri, the capital of Imo State, and engaged with security personnel in a gun battle.
“The Owerri Custodial Center in Imo State has been attacked by unknown gunmen and forcefully released a total of 1,884 inmates in custody,” the national corrections authority said in a statement.
One police officer was reportedly injured in the attack.
According to authorities, other government buildings in the city also came under attack around the same time.
Acting Controller-General of Corrections John Mrabure has ordered an investigation into the attack, as well as a search to recapture the escaped prisoners, the corrections authority stated.
No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the police alleged that the assailants were from the Eastern Security Network, the paramilitary wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
However, IPOB Spokesperson Emmanuel Powerful denied any involvement in the jail attack and dismissed the accusations as “lies,” in a statement sent to AFP News.
President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attacks as “an act of terrorism.”
“The President directed security and intelligence agencies in the state and the geo-political zone to fully mobilize and go after the terrorists, apprehend them and get them punished under the full weight of the law,” Presidential Spokesperson Garba Shehu stated on Twitter.
“He also called for the best efforts to be made to re-arrest fleeing prison detainees, many of whom are believed to be deadly criminals,” Shehu added.
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