Attempted jail break at Nigeria secret police HQ

2014-03-30 17:01

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Abuja - Nigeria's secret police said on Sunday there had been an escape attempt by detainees at their headquarters, with unconfirmed reports that Boko Haram militants were involved.

A breach of security at the secret police facility in Abuja, particularly by the feared Islamists, would be an embarrassment for the government and raise fresh questions about its ability to tackle the extremists.

But there was no official confirmation of the involvement of the group, which has been waging an increasingly violent insurgency in Nigeria's northeast this year.

Marilyn Ogar, spokesperson for the Department of State Services (DSS) - the country's domestic intelligence agency - said only that the incident happened at 07:15 when one of its officers went to give the detainees food.

"One of the suspects attempted to disarm him by hitting him at the back of his head with his handcuff," she said in an emailed statement.

"His attempt to escape drew the attention of other guards at the facility who fired some shots to warn and deter others."

Ogar did not provide details on the number of inmates involved nor disclose why they were being held but said further details would be released later.

The DSS headquarters in the capital Abuja are near the presidential villa and nearby residents reported hearing gunfire on Sunday morning.

Traffic was also diverted in the area and roads surrounding the facility were cordoned off, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

'No cause for alarm'

President Goodluck Jonathan's spokesperson, Reuben Abati, meanwhile wrote on his Twitter account that the head of state's residence was not affected.

"What happened at the SSS HQ this morning was an attempted jailbreak which has been effectively foiled. There is no cause for alarm," he said on @abati1990.

"What happened at the SSS HQs has nothing to do with the [Presidential] Villa. President Jonathan is safe & well. Thank you for your concern & support," he added.

Ogar said the sound of gun shots from the headquarters, known locally as Yellow House, prompted the military to be called out.

"The army immediately deployed a team to reinforce our perimeter guards to forestall any external collaborators. The situation has since been brought under control," she added.

A security source told AFP the officer involved was shot with his own rifle after the inmates seized the weapon. His condition was not immediately known.

A number of Nigerian newspaper websites and users of social media claimed that the detainees were Boko Haram suspects but did not quote sources.

The DSS had on 3 March paraded seven suspected Boko Haram members arrested on suspicion of killing a prominent Muslim cleric who had criticised the group before the media at their headquarters.

The seven were held over the murder of Adam Albani in the northern city of Zaria on 1 February.

But it was not known whether the men, including the alleged mastermind of the attack and one of the gunmen, were still at the facility.

In the first three months of this year, the Boko Haram insurgency, which began in 2009, has seen more than 1 000 people killed and some 250 000 displaced in the three northeastern states worst affected by the violence.

Read more on:    nigeria  |  west africa
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