FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Sierra Leone’s president declared a nationwide curfew Sunday after gunmen attacked the army’s primary and largest barracks within the West African nation’s capital after which overran detention facilities, together with a significant jail.
The assault raised fears of a breakdown of order amid a surge of coups within the area.
The detention facilities, together with the Pademba Highway Prisons — holding greater than 2,000 inmates — had been attacked simply as safety forces fought to revive calm throughout sustained shootouts on the Wilberforce army barracks, in line with Info Minister Chernor Bah.
“The prisons had been overrun (and) some prisoners had been kidnapped by the assailants whereas many others had been launched,” Bah mentioned. Safety forces managed to “push again” the assailants to the outskirts of town the place combating continues, he added.
Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio earlier declared a nationwide curfew in response to the assaults.
An Related Press journalist within the capital mentioned that gunshots had been nonetheless heard within the metropolis hours after the federal government assured residents of calm, though it wasn’t clear who was behind the change of fireside, nor if any arrests had been made.
“The safety forces are making progress within the operation to defeat and apprehend these answerable for immediately’s assaults,” Bah mentioned. “The federal government stays in management and on high of the scenario.”
The president and the nation’s Ministry of Info and Schooling additionally each mentioned that the federal government and safety forces are in charge of the scenario, attempting to dismiss fears of a attainable escalation of violence within the nation whose inhabitants of 8 million individuals is among the many poorest on the earth, having a number of the lowest scores on the U.N. Human Growth Index.
No particulars had been instantly given concerning the gunmen or the explanation for the assault, which comes months after Bio was reelected for a second time period in a disputed vote wherein the primary opposition celebration accused the electoral fee of rigging the outcomes.
Movies posted on-line confirmed troopers patrolling Freetown’s empty streets and captured the loud blasts of gunshots at daybreak. The AP could not instantly confirm the authenticity of the movies.
West Africa’s regional financial bloc ECOWAS — of which Sierra Leone is a member — described the incident as a plot “to amass arms and disturb the peace and constitutional order” within the nation. The bloc has in current months tried to reverse the surge in coups in West and Central Africa, which has recorded eight army takeovers since 2020, the most recent in Niger and Gabon this 12 months.
“ECOWAS reiterates its zero tolerance for unconstitutional change of presidency,” the bloc mentioned in an announcement.
Bio was reelected in Sierra Leone’s fifth presidential election for the reason that finish of a brutal 11-year civil warfare — greater than twenty years in the past — which left tens of hundreds of individuals lifeless and destroyed the nation’s economic system.
He continues to face criticism due to debilitating financial circumstances. Almost 60% of Sierra Leone’s inhabitants is going through poverty, with the youth unemployment fee being one of many highest in West Africa.
Two months after Bio gained the disputed vote, police mentioned they arrested a number of individuals, together with senior army officers planning to make use of protests “to undermine peace” within the nation.
A protest in opposition to the federal government in August final 12 months resulted within the deaths of greater than 30 individuals, together with six law enforcement officials.