Intruders armed with assault rifles and missile grenades launched a concerted attack in southeastern Nigeria, freeing over 1,800 inmates.
According to local resident Uche Okafor, the attacks started about 2 a.m. Monday in Owerri, a town in the state of Imo, and lasted around two hours. According to officials, gunmen also attacked other police and military buildings.
“Efforts to re-arrest the escaping prisoners are in high gear,” said Nigeria prison spokesman Francis Enobore, who added that 35 other inmates remained behind after the prison break.
The coordinated attacks follow another outbreak of violence in southeastern Nigeria, in which at least a dozen security officers were killed in attacks on four police stations, military checkpoints, and prison vehicles.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its Eastern Security Network (ESN), a paramilitary arm of the secessionist movement active in the area, were blamed by the Nigerian inspector general of police.
According to Frank Mba, a spokesperson for the Nigerian police force, “preliminary reports have confirmed that the attackers… are members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra.”
The IPOB has claimed responsibility for the prison attack and has stated that it is fighting to protect the Igbo people from foreign armed invaders.
“The attack in Owerri, Imo state, was not carried out by the IPOB or the ESN. In a phone call with the Reuters news agency, an IPOB spokesman said, “It is not our mandate to target security staff or prison facilities.”
During the violence, police said the attackers were heavily armed with assault weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, and improvised explosive devices.
According to a police release, the attackers’ effort to gain entry to the police armoury at headquarters was “totally and sufficiently resisted.”
Several police stations have been attacked in southeastern Nigeria since January, with large amounts of ammunition stolen. No groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks.