Authorities in Guinea have confirmed that at least nine people have been killed during an armed jailbreak in which a former president was briefly freed.
Heavily armed men sprang former military ruler Moussa Dadis Camara and three other officials out of a central prison on Saturday morning. The escape prompted authorities to launch a nationwide manhunt, the Ministry of Justice said in a statement on Monday.
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Camara, who following a coup served as president from December 2008 until January 2010, was back in Conakry’s Central House prison by the end of the day.
In a provisional assessment of the prison break, the Justice Ministry said nine bodies had been found, including that of three attackers and four members of Guinea’s defence forces.
Six others were being treated for gunshot wounds in hospital.
The West African country of about 14 million people underwent a coup in September 2021, when Colonel Mamady Doumbouya stormed the presidential palace with soldiers and overthrew civilian President Alpha Conde. It has been led by the military government since.
Camara has been in detention since going on trial in September 2022. He and about 10 other former military and government officials are accused in a 2009 attack carried out by security forces loyal to the then-military government leader.
The killing of 156 people and the rape of at least 109 women started at a political rally in a Conakry stadium on September 28, 2009 and continued in the days that followed, according to a United Nations-mandated inquiry.
Camara and his co-defendants are charged with murder, sexual violence, torture, abduction and kidnapping. They face life imprisonment if convicted.
The trial is unprecedented in a country ruled for decades by authoritarian regimes, where people had become used to the impunity of the virtually untouchable security forces, according to the international commission of inquiry into the attack.
It opened at the urging of Colonel Mamady Doumbouya. After his coup, he promised to rebuild the Guinean state and make justice his “compass”.
Following the 2021 putsch, Doumbouya was inaugurated as president and under international pressure committed to handing over power to elected civilians within two years from January 2023.
The Forces Vives de Guinee, a collective of opposition parties and organisations, have since denounced unfulfilled commitments and an authoritarian drift by Doumbouya’s military government, calling it an “emerging dictatorship”.