Sierra Leone under curfew as prisoners on the loose

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Sierra Leone has been placed under a nationwide curfew as armed men broke into a prison, setting inmates free.

Detainees from Central Pademba Road prison in the capital city Freetown were released on Sunday morning, an official at the facility told BBC News.

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Earlier on, the gunmen had attacked a major military barracks in the city.

Residents reported hearing gunshots at the barracks, which are close to the presidential residence.

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After the attack, the Ministry of Information declared an immediate curfew. Residents across the West African country are “strongly” recommended to stay indoors and flights to and from the nation’s only international airport have been cancelled.

President Julius Maada Bio said calm had been restored and a manhunt launched to find all of the gunmen.

However, the BBC’s Umaru Fofana, based in Freetown, reports that there is still disorder in the city.

He drove past soldiers carrying heavy weaponry in a seized police vehicle and saw others chanting that that they planned to “clean Sierra Leone”.

It is unclear exactly how many inmates have broken out of Central Pademba Road prison. The facility held more than 2,000 people as of 2019, according to a US State Department report detailing overcrowding and poor conditions at Central Pademba Road.

Videos shared on social media showed several people fleeing from the area of the prison.

One video appeared to show popular rapper Boss LAJ, who was imprisoned last year on robbery charges, running free.

BBC News has not been able to authenticate these videos.

The political situation in Sierra Leone has remained tense since June, when President Bio was re-elected after narrowly missing a run-off.

International observers condemned inconsistencies and a lack of transparency in the count, as well as acts of violence and intimidation.

In August, a number of soldiers were arrested and accused of plotting a coup against the president.

Eight countries in West and Central Africa are under military rule after a series of coups, including neighbouring Guinea.

The US, European Union, UK and regional block ECOWAS have released statements strongly condemning Sunday’s violence.

Credit: BBC

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