Police hunt hundreds of escaped inmates

2010-09-09 10:07

Bauchi, Nigeria – Police were hunting hundreds of inmates who escaped when suspected Islamists used machine guns and bombs in a Nigerian prison attack. Authorities warned other jails may be vulnerable.

The Islamist sect suspected in the attack that freed more than 700 prisoners had launched an uprising in the country’s north last year put down by a brutal assault, and Nigeria’s government said it would move to prevent a repeat.

More than 100 alleged members of the extremist group were among those who escaped in the Tuesday night siege in the northern city of Bauchi, police said.

The interior minister said the attackers, believed to be from a sect known as Boko Haram, used “overwhelming firepower” and police described them as being armed with machine guns and home-made bombs.

They set fire to a section of the prison complex and fought a fierce gun battle with authorities. Police said four people were killed.

“We also wish to warn any potential troublemakers that the federal government will not fold its arms and allow the situation to degenerate unchecked,” interior minister Emmanuel Ihenacho said.

Leaflets were found at the scene after the attack warning of further violence and saying in the Hausa language that “this holy work was made possible by Allah’s grace, under the auspices of your mujahideen brethren”.

The head of Nigeria’s prisons visited the jail yesterday and said security would be tightened at other detention centres, particularly in areas that have been targeted in the past by the Islamists.

“We know there are some vulnerable prisons around,” said Olusola Ogundipe, naming two northern areas in particular, including Maiduguri, which was the centre of last year’s uprising. “We have beefed up security in these places.”

Police said a total of 721 inmates were freed in the attack, including 105 suspected sect members. Thirty-five had been re-arrested, they said.

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