Armed attackers raid prison on outskirts of Nigerian capital

Authorities say the ‘situation is under control’, and that suspected Boko Haram members came for comrades held in prison.

A security officer with a sniffer dog stands at the medium-security prison in Kuje
A security officer stands at the medium-security prison in Kuje, near the capital Abuja [Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]

Armed attackers have raided a prison near the capital of Nigeria, where residents reported hearing several explosions.

The Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre on the outskirts of Abuja came under attack late on Tuesday, authorities said.

“The armed squad of the Nigerian Correctional Service and other security agencies attached to the Custodial centre have responded and calm has been restored to the facility and the situation is under control,” a prison service spokesman said in a statement.

Shuaib Belgore, permanent secretary at the interior ministry, told journalists outside the prison – which has 900 inmates – that a security officer was killed during the raid and three others were injured.

He added that more than 600 inmates had fled but half had been recaptured and a manhunt was continuing.

“They have reported themselves to the police, some we have successfully retrieved from the bushes where they were hiding, and (as of) now we have retrieved about 300 out of about 600 that got out of the jail cells,” he said.

He said the raid was orchestrated by suspected Boko Haram attackers came for members held in the prison.

Charred cars are seen outside the Kuje maximum prison
Charred cars are seen outside the Kuje maximum prison following the attack [Chinedu Asadu/AP Photo]

“They came specifically for their co-conspirators, but in order to get them…, some of them are in the general (prison) population so they broke out and other people in that population escaped as well but many of them have returned,” Belgore said.

Outside the prison, the charred remains of several vehicles with bullet holes were seen on Wednesday morning, attesting to gunbattles in the vicinity during the raid.

Attacks on prisons by armed men seeking to free inmates have become common occurrences in the West African country in recent years. More than 7,000 people escaped from prisons across the country between 2010 and 2021, according to an Al Jazeera analysis of media reports and official escapee numbers.

Last April, more than 1,800 inmates escaped from Owerri prison in southwest Imo state, with armed men using explosives to blast through walls after a gun battle with guards.

The latest incident came hours after armed men ambushed an advance convoy of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the northern state of Katsina.

The president was not in the convoy at the time of the attack, which occurred on the way to Buhari’s hometown of Daura, near the border with Niger. Two people were injured.

A statement from the president’s office said the attackers were “repelled by the military, police and security personnel accompanying the convoy”.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack.

Nigeria has experienced spiralling insecurity in recent years, with security forces battling a grinding 13-year armed uprising by the Boko Haram group and its splinter groups in the country’s northeast and heavily armed criminal gangs that operate in the northwest. The violence has gradually moved towards the country’s centre, where Abuja is located.

Meanwhile, armed men locally known as bandits often raid and loot villages and carry out mass abductions for ransom despite military operations against them in northwest and central Nigeria.

Source: Al Jazeera