DAKAR, Senegal — The Nigerian authorities say they’re trying to find about 1,800 inmates who escaped from a jail aided by closely armed gunmen within the southeastern nook of the nation, the place anti-government separatists have lengthy been lively.
The authorities laid blame for the jailbreak on a insurgent group that promotes the decades-old reason behind 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 change into rife and the military has been deployed to answer safety threats, together with terrorism and banditry, in nearly each state.
Jail officers mentioned that early on Monday morning, males armed with subtle weapons arrived at a jail in Owerri, in southeastern Imo State. They exchanged fireplace with safety personnel, in keeping with jail officers, after which used explosives to blast their means into the jail yard.
Nigeria’s safety companies have launched a search operation to recapture the inmates. They put the variety of escapees at 1,844.
Jail officers mentioned in a press release that they had been “interesting to the nice residents of Imo State and certainly Nigerians to volunteer helpful intelligence that may facilitate the restoration effort.”
They mentioned all officers at different prisons ought to “stay vigilant at this attempting second in our historical past,” suggesting concern about additional jail breaks.
A couple of prisoners had been trickling again into custody, accompanied by their family members or legal professionals, Francis Enobore, a spokesman for the jail system in Nigeria, mentioned in a WhatsApp change. Thirty-five inmates refused to go away when the jailbreak occurred, he mentioned.
The police mentioned that the attackers had been members of the Indigenous Individuals of Biafra, a secessionist group that has been banned in Nigeria since 2017 and is designated as a “militant terrorist group” by the federal government.
However a spokesperson for the Indigenous Individuals of Biafra denied that the group — or its paramilitary wing, the Jap Safety Community — had been concerned.
“E.S.N. is within the bush chasing terrorists and haven’t any enterprise with the mentioned assaults,” the spokesman, Emma Highly effective, mentioned in a press release. “It’s not our mandate to assault safety personnel or jail services.”
There have been no casualties among the many police, who repelled an assault on the armory on the jail, in keeping with Frank Mba, a police spokesman.