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Supporters of separatist Nnamdi Kanu during a protest in Owerri in 2017

Hundreds of prisoners escape in Owerri amid armed attack

5 April 2021

Nigeria has experienced one of its largest jailbreaks — involving more than 1,800 inmates — after gunmen attacked a prison in the south of the country.

More than 1,800 inmates of a prison in southern Nigeria have escaped after heavily armed men attacked the facility in the early hours of the morning, prison authorities said on Monday.

The attackers used explosives to make their way into the Owerri prison in the state of Imo before starting a gun battle with prison guards, the national corrections authority said in a statement.

Other government buildings in the town of Owerri also came under attack at the same time.

No group has so far taken responsibility for the attack, but the region is known for being home to a number of separatist organizations.

The Nigerian inspector general of police blamed the paramilitary wing of one of them, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), for the assault.

The ESN says it is fighting to protect the indigenous Igbo population from foreign armed invaders.

‘Act of terrorism’

In a statement, President Muhammadu Buhari described the attack as “an act of terrorism” and called on security forces to bring both the assailants and the escaped inmates into custody.

The attacks in Owerri come less than two weeks after attacks on four police stations, military checkpoints and prison vehicles in southeastern Nigeria killed at least a dozen security officers.

Prisons in Nigeria are often overcrowded and the hygiene conditions are frequently poor.

A version of this report was published by DW, the German public service broadcaster.

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