Gunmen attack prison in southeastern Nigeria holding 1,500

WARRI, Nigeria — Heavily armed gunmen attacked police and military buildings along with a prison holding at least 1,500 inmates in southeastern Nigeria and an untold number of them may have escaped, an Imo state police spokesman said Monday.

The attacks in the town of Owerri began around 2 a.m. and last for about two hours, according to local resident Uche Okafor. Gunmen also assaulted various other government buildings in Imo state around the same time, authorities said.

The co-ordinated attacks come less than two weeks after another wave of violence in southeastern Nigeria. At least a dozen Nigerian security officers died when four police stations, military checkpoints and prison vehicles came under ambush by gunmen.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s assault on the prison, which was built with official capacity of 548 inmates, but was believed to be housing more than 1,500.

However, a paramilitary wing of a secessionist movement active in the region has been battling government security forces since December. The Eastern Security Network, or ESN, has said it is fighting for the protection of the Igbo people from foreign armed invaders killing their people.

Uchenna Madu, the leader of a breakaway faction of another secessionist group, condemned the attack Monday, saying his followers from the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) believe in non-violent struggle.

Hilary Uguru, The Associated Press

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