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‘Our guns were no match for theirs’ — soldier speaks on Kuje prison attack

‘Our guns were no match for theirs’ — soldier speaks on Kuje prison attack
July 07
11:16 2022

No resident in Kuje expected that as the sun in the area council dropped over the hazy horizon and twilight slithered over the sky to usher in the night, gunshots and explosions would throw them into panic and interrupt their sleep.

The Kuje correctional facility, situated in the federal capital territory (FCT) was attacked on Tuesday night and many inmates — including “all Boko Haram suspects” — escaped.

Bashir Magashi, minister of defence, said the attackers are members of the Boko Haram who came to free their comrades who were detained in the facility.

“The people who came to do this for the records belong to a particular group. From all indicators, they are Boko Haram,” he said on Wednesday.

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“Currently, there are about 64 of them as inmates and we could not locate them.”

Abubakar Umar, Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) spokesperson, said a total of 879 inmates escaped and that security operatives have recaptured 443 of them.

‘ATTACKERS CAME IN FROM MANY ROUTES’

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Emmanuel Abiodun, a resident of Kuje, told TheCable they began hearing “heavy gunshots” around 10:15pm, followed by explosions that lasted more than two hours.

Abiodun, whose home is a fence away from the prison, said gunfire was heard from all the adjoining streets that lead to the prison.

Amid the panic, Abiodun and his siblings raced to the lavatory and laid face down in fear.

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“It was around 10:15 at night when we started hearing gunshots,” he said.

“Before then, a friend of mine, who was accompanying a colleague of his down to the junction, said he saw some strange people that were just hanging around.

“He returned home and after a few minutes, we started hearing gunshots. The gunshots were so rapid. Even in the house where I stay — the room shares a fence with the prison — we were just hearing bomb blasts and gunshots continuously.

“The operation lasted like three hours. There was no intervention, we were so scared. We were wondering if some of those we heard running will jump into our compound.

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“They were clearly terrorists. They kept chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’, and saying: ‘we have gained victory’ in Hausa language.

“They were bombing everywhere with explosives; it was shaking the room and the whole ground. We were so scared. The sound was so intense that it was like the blast was happening behind my room. They were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’, gyrating and marching.”

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‘I THOUGHT IT WAS A ROBBERY’

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A woman, who chose to be unnamed, said she had just finished her night prayer when she heard the “heavy gunshots”.

“My house is closer to the prison, but we didn’t know that it was inside the prison that the blast was taking place. We thought it was a robbery attack,” she said.

She added that repeated calls to the police hotline that night caused her phone to shut down.

“They didn’t come because their base was far,” she said.

According to her, residents were afraid to come out of their houses on Wednesday morning, because they were still worried about their safety.

‘GRENADES WERE USED TO BREAK THE WALLS’

Destroyed prison wall

An army officer at the facility told TheCable that 30 soldiers were deployed to the prison facility less than 24 hours before the attackers arrived.

He said, according to practice, soldiers guarding the facility are always redeployed every month and that his batch had yet to be familiarised with the area before the attackers struck.

The soldier, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to TheCable, said the attackers raided the facility with general-purpose machine guns (GMP).

“Our guns do not match their own. They used grenades and other explosives to bomb the building where the inmates were kept,” he added. 



This story is published in partnership with Report for the World, a global service program that supports local public interest journalism.

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