Nigeria

Nigeria prison attack frees over 700 inmates

AFP

Suspected members of an Islamist sect have raided a prison in northern Nigeria, freeing 732 inmates, including members of the extremist group. The majority of the facility's 762 prisoners escaped, with 31 later re-arrested.

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Four people were reportedly killed in Tuesday's attack on Bauchi state prison, including a soldier, a police officer and two residents.

Prison guard Salisu Mohammed said large numbers of heavily armed Boko Haram sect members raided the facility, in which all 150 sect inmates were freed.

But Police Commissioner Danlami Yar'Adua said authorities re-arrested 20 inmates as well as 11 suspected Boko Haram members, leaving 701 inmates still at large.

Calm returned to the area after an hour of heavy fighting, with police and the military saying they have since locked down the area.

Residents said they were terrified during the attack, and feared security forces would mistake them for members of Boko Haram, also known as the Nigerian Taliban.

The attack came during the last days of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and ahead of January's presidential elections.

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sin" in local Hausa dialect, had fought for the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria, which is roughly divided in half between Muslims and Christians.

The vast majority of Muslims in the country reject the sect's hardline ideology, and many observers say the group grew out of frustration with Nigeria's widespread corruption, poverty and lack of opportunities for youth.

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