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Almost 2,000 prisoners have escaped after a jailbreak in south-east Nigeria blamed on armed separatists, in the latest in a string of armed attacks on law enforcement authorities.

A prison facility and police command centre in the city of Owerri, Imo state, was targeted early on Monday by gunmen who destroyed part of the prison walls with explosives, freeing 1,844 inmates. One police officer was shot and injured in the attack.

Gunmen used explosives to blast their way into the administrative building of the prison in the early hours of Monday. The heavily armed men, who arrived in pickup trucks and buses, were also carrying machine guns and rifles. 

Picture of the Administration room

At least 1,844 inmates were freed during the attack on the prison in the south-eastern town of Owerri, the Nigerian Correctional Service has confirmed.

Since 2015, south-east Nigeria has experienced the most marked resurgence in secessionist sentiment since the 1967-70 Biafra war. Millions of people died during the conflict, many from starvation after a government blockade on the region, in one of the darkest chapters in modern Nigerian history.

In recent years, as security forces have launched controversial crackdowns on mass protests and boycotts, attacks by suspected pro-Biafran groups have grown.

Six inmates have reportedly returned to the Imo state prison, while 35 refused to take part in the jailbreak. 

Police have blamed the Indigenous People of Biafra, a banned separatist group in the south-west of the country.

The group, which say they are fighting to restore independence to the south-western state of Biafra through a referendum, have denied staging the prison break. 

A spokesperson for the group told AFP the accusations were ‘lies’, without expanding. 

Source: TheGuardian.com

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