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Nigerian security forces take measures after an attack at Kuje prison outskirt of the capital Abuja, Nigeria. (Photo by Adam Abu-bashal/Anadolu Agency, Getty)

Nigerian Jihadist Prison Break Frees More Than 440

The latest prison raid in Nigeria resulted in the deaths of four prisoners, a security guard, and several attackers. More than 400 prisoners continue to evade recapture after the attack on 5 July, according to official reports.

“Loud explosions and gunfire were heard near the Kuje medium-security prison, just outside the capital, on Tuesday night when the attack happened,” BBC News reported.

Islamic militants claimed responsibility for the raid, which occurred near the international airport in Abuja. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP)—an Islamic State group that operates in West Africa and is affiliated with Boko Haram—said it freed dozens of inmates with its attack.

Although it only has a capacity for about 550 prisoners, an estimated 1,000 prisoners were housed in the facility during the attack, and nearly all of them initially escaped. Nigeria’s prison officials added that 16 inmates were also injured during the raid.

Bashir Magashi, Nigerian defense minister, said that of the 443 prisoners still at large, 64 of them were jihadists.

The U.S. and UK embassies issued security advisories in response to the attack, recommending their citizens “maintain a high state of personal security awareness for the next two weeks.” The U.S. embassy also cautioned that increased crime is expected in the region of Abuja and recommended avoiding unnecessary travel by road to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

“Nigeria’s jihadi rebels and other armed groups have carried out several jailbreaks in the country’s northeast in recent years, but this is the first in the capital city in recent years,” PBS reported.

Since 2020, more than 5,000 inmates have escaped from Nigerian prisons. That number climbs to more than 7,000 when jailbreaks since 2010 are included, according to analysis from Al Jazeera.

“Nigeria’s penitentiary system has long been saddled with a multitude of problems. The country’s criminal and penal codes are archaic, while the infrastructure is mostly a relic of the British colonial era (the Benin prison dates back to 1906), long before Nigeria’s population explosion and a consequent rise in crime,” Al Jazeera said. “Even worse, the facilities are some of the most overcrowded globally, with Nigeria ranking 49th on a list of 206 countries in the World Prison Brief published by the University of London’s Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research.”

The various jailbreaks were triggered by external assaults by armed attackers, internal riots, and in one instance in October 2019, a flood that helped 200 inmates escape.

According to the United Nations, ISWAP has carried out several attacks in Nigeria since it formed in March 2015, including the abduction of 110 schoolgirls in February 2018.