How Gunmen attacked Imo Prison, freed 1,844 inmates

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Heavily armed gang has attacked the Imo State Correctional Service using explosives and freeing at least 1,844 inmates.

A statement by the Nigerian Correctional Service Public Relations Officer, Francis Enobore in Abuja said the attackers stormed the facilities at about 02:15 hours “gained entrance into the yard by using explosives to blast the administrative block.

Enobore explained as at the last count, six inmates voluntarily returned to the facility while 35 inmates refused to escape.

“The Owerri Custodial Centre in Imo State has been attacked by unknown gunmen and forcefully released a total of 1,844 inmates in custody.”

Enobore said: “The attackers who stormed the facility at about 0215hrs on Monday 5th April, 2021, gained entrance into the yard by using explosives to blast the administrative block.

“They were said to have arrived the center in their large number in several Hilux pick-up vans and Sienna Buses armed with sophisticated weapons and immediately engaged the security personnel on duty in a fierce gun battle.

“They eventually detonated the explosive to gain entrance.

“The Acting Controller-General of Corrections, John Mrabure has ordered a comprehensive investigation into the incident and in collaboration with other security organizations, commenced a search and recover operations to recapture the fleeing inmates.

“While appealing to the good citizens of Imo State and indeed Nigerians to volunteer useful intelligence that will facilitate the recovery effort, the Ag. Controller-General wishes to assure that the security of custodial centers in the country remains sacrosanct.

“He equally directed all officers attached to custodial facilities to remain vigilant at this trying moment in our history.

“As at the last count, 6 inmates have so far voluntarily returned to the facility while 35 inmates refused to escape from custody during the attack.”

No group claimed responsibility for the assault, though President Muhammadu Buhari called the attack an “act of terrorism” carried out by “anarchists” and urged security forces to capture the assailants and the escaped detainees.

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Police accuses IPOB, ESN members 

Meanwhile, the Police authorities have stated those who razed Imo Police Command Headquarters and freed inmates at the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS) were members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Eastern Security Network (ESN).

Burnt Vehicles

But IPOB spokesman Emmanuel Powerful rejected any involvement in the Imo prison attack in a statement sent to AFP, dismissing any accusations as “lies”.

Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu ordered the immediate deployment of additional units of Police Mobile Force (PMF) and other Police Tactical Squads to Imo State to strengthen security and prevent further attacks on security formations or any other critical national infrastructure in the State.

A statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba said: “Preliminary investigations have revealed that the attackers, who came in their numbers with sophisticated weapons such as General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs), Sub-Machine Guns (SMGs), AK49 rifles, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), are members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)/Eastern Security Network (ESN).

“The attempt by the attackers to gain access to the Police armoury at the Headquarters was totally and appropriately resisted by Police operatives on duty who repelled the attackers and prevented them from breaking-in and looting the armory”.

The armoury, Mba said, is intact, adding the police suffered no human casualty, apart from a police Constable who sustained a minor bullet wound on his shoulder. He said one of the operational vehicles of the attackers has been recovered by the Police and is being subjected to forensic scrutiny and investigations.