Armed ViolenceNews

High-Profile Terrorism Detainees Flee After ISWAP Attack On Prison In Nigeria’s Capital

The attack on the facility in Nigeria's capital is coming on the heels of calls by the Islamic State to its local affiliates to break out prisoners or negotiate their release.

A custodial facility in the Kuje area of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, was breached on Wednesday, July 5, by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), causing hundreds of detainees to regain freedom, including those held under charges of committing acts of terrorism. 

The medium-security facility is one of the key custodial centres holding people who are facing charges of terrorism. 

In a statement released on Wednesday through the propaganda news outlet, Amaq, ISWAP claimed responsibility for the attack, saying its fighters demolished the walls of the facility and “successfully liberated dozens of prisoners”.

HumAngle understands that the authorities scrambled for reinforcement in response to the raid, which involved the use of explosive devices, and the detainees’ escape.

The country’s Minister Of Defence, Bashir Magashi, was quoted to have told journalists, after an assessment of the incident, that profiling of the escapees was ongoing. 

He added that the prison had about 994 inmates and over 600 escaped. Some of the prisoners who escaped have been recaptured and returned to the facility, he said. “Maybe by the close of the day, more will have been captured and returned.”

The Defence Minister also noted that the attackers were most likely Boko Haram members “because we have a sizable number of Boko Haram suspects in detention, and presently we cannot locate any of them”.

The attack on the custodial centre comes days after a ranking ISWAP member spoke about freeing prisoners in a 39 minutes long video released in June. 

In April, Islamic State (IS) spokesman Abu Omar al-Muhajer addressed the situation of imprisoned members and called for their liberation, saying freeing them was of utmost priority and an obligation for the group. 

The call, which included the announcement of a campaign of vengeance for the death of its leaders, coincided with the launch of a series of ISWAP attacks and expansion of operations, particularly with small arms and explosive attacks in Taraba and Kogi, in the northeast and north-central regions respectively. 

The group has also carried out attacks against police officers in the North-central town of Suleja, located a couple of kilometres from the country’s capital. 

Editor’s note: This report has been updated to reflect the statement released by ISWAP, claiming responsibility for the attack.

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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