Unidentified gunmen attacked a prison in southwestern Nigeria on Sunday, blowing up the facility’s fence to free 266 inmates, or nearly all of the site’s prisoners, Nigeria’s Premium Times reported Monday.
An unknown number of armed men stormed the Kabba Medium Security Custodial Center in Kabba, a city located in Nigeria’s Kogi State, on the night of September 12, according to the newspaper.
The gunmen “used explosives to destroy three sides of the perimeter fence” surrounding the prison, clearing the way for 266 of the detention center’s 294 total inmates to flee the compound.
“Twenty-eight out of the 294 inmates at Kabba had not escaped … meaning 266 had got away. The prison service had initially put the number of fugitives at 240,” Reuters observed on September 13 citing information released by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of the Interior.
Nigeria’s prison service said the Kabba detention center opened in 2008 “with a capacity for 200 inmates,” according to Reuters, indicating it was overcrowded. The Kabba prison contained 224 pre-trial detainees and 70 convicted offenders at the time of Sunday’s attack, according to official records.
“During the attack, security officers on duty which comprised of 15 Soldiers, 10 Police Officers and 10 armed guards of the NCoS [Nigerian Correctional Service] on duty fought gallantly to repel the attack,” Nigerian Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola told the Premium Times on September 13.
“Regrettably, two officers of the Correctional Service are yet to be accounted for while one soldier and a policeman lost their lives during the attack,” Aregbesola revealed.
The interior minister said no group had claimed responsibility for the violent jailbreak as of Monday.
NCoS spokesman Francis Enobore told reporters on September 14 Nigerian security authorities had “recaptured” 114 inmates of the Kabba Medium Security Custodial Center who escaped during the September 12 attack.
Enobore said the NCoS drew upon “support from other local security agencies,” including “vigilante groups,” which allegedly “provided aid in the recapturing of the 114 inmates.”
The mouthpiece of Nigeria’s prison service vowed his department would continue searching for the remaining fugitives on Tuesday.
“It would be of no use for them to keep hiding since their photographs and biometrics have been captured,” Enobore told reporters.
Nigeria’s Interior Ministry previously stated on September 13 that “some” inmates of the Kabba prison who escaped on the night of September 12 had “voluntarily returned to the facility” by the next morning.
Sunday’s attack on the prison in Kabba marked Nigeria’s second major jailbreak of 2021. Armed militants attacked a prison in southeastern Nigeria’s Imo State on April 5, freeing nearly 2,000 inmates as part of a more extensive “terror” operation, according to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The attackers who stormed the facility … gained entrance into the yard by using explosives to blast the administrative block,” NCoS Spokesman Francis Enobore said at the time.
“They were said to have arrived [at] 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,” Enobore detailed.
The militants further attempted to infiltrate the Nigerian Police Force’s nearby headquarters and armory, but police officers managed to thwart the attack.
The gunmen armed themselves extensively, boasting “sophisticated weapons such as General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs), Sub-Machine Guns (SMGs), AK49 rifles, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), [and] Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs),” according to the Nigerian Police Force, which is Nigeria’s national law enforcement agency.
The federal security agency said at the time it believed the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), an outlawed Nigerian separatist group, was responsible for the attack on the prison in Imo, as the state pertains to a section of southeastern Nigeria claimed by the IPOB.
A spokesman for the IPOB denied the group’s involvement in the incident on April 6 in a statement to CNN. Kogi State, the site of Sunday’s attack on Kabba prison, is not located in the Nigerian region disputed by the IPOB.