Bomb blasts reportedly heard as gunmen attack Kuje Prison in Abuja

Bomb blasts reportedly heard as gunmen attack Kuje Prison in Abuja

The Kuje Custodial Centre located in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory came under attack late Tuesday night apparently to free jailed criminals, despite an earlier warning by the country’s intelligence service.

A prison source told PREMIUM TIMES that the State Security Service had earlier warned of an impending attack on Kuje prison. The source, however, could not describe the level of measures put in place to forestall the attack.

“Kuje prison is under massive bomb, armed attack,” a prison staff told PREMIUM TIMES as the attack was being carried out late Tuesday.

In the later update that emerged, the source said the attackers used three bombs and forcibly gained control of four entry and exit points.

The prison is in Kuje Area Council of the FCT, lying outside the Abuja city centre, 47 kilometres to the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, and 24 kilometres to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

Dangerous criminals, including apprehended Boko Haram terrorists, are held in the prison, which also houses high profile public officers standing trial or already convicted.

“Three weeks ago, several high profile terrorists were relocated to Kuje prison,” the prison source said, the earliest link officials are analysing to trace the motivation for the attack.

Kuje has a capacity of about 550 but currently detains about 1000 inmates, a prison source said.

Specifically, soldiers of the 176 Special Forces Guards Brigade Battalion, Gwagwalada, were deployed by the army, officials told PREMIUM TIMES.

The impact of the attack is not immediately known but officials are suspecting a terrorist motivation to free dangerous criminals.

Recent prison attacks across Nigeria – in Oyo, Plateau, Imo, and Edo States – had caused massive illegal release of inmates.

FCT communities, lying outside the city centre, have increasingly become prone to violent crimes, including abductions believed to be carried out by terrorists, often called bandits, operating in the Northwest and parts of the Northcentral, including the federal capital.

In the neighbouring Niger State, Boko Haram terrorists, according to the state government, are controlling communities while Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP, has claimed attacks in Kogi State, another neighbouring state.

On March 28, a Kaduna-bound train leaving Abuja was attacked in Katari by terrorists, suspected to be of Ansaru, a Boko Haram splinter group, believed to be collaborating with bandits. The attack involved bombing and mass shooting resulting in the deaths of at least eight persons and abduction of more than 60 travellers.

About 50 victims are still in captivity more than three months after. In video releases, the abductors have said the government knows what they want to free the captives. Intelligence sources say they are seeking release of their jailed members in exchange for the freedom of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack victims.

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