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Islamic State claims attack on Nigerian prison, frees hundreds of inmates

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Islamic State claims attack on Nigerian prison, frees hundreds of inmates
Gunmen set off explosives at the gates of the Kuje Medium Prison in Abuja, Nigeria, to free hundreds of inmates. Photo by Stringer/EPA-EFE

July 6 (UPI) -- A suspected Islamist attack on a prison in Nigeria has freed hundreds of inmates, including militants, government officials said Wednesday.

The armed attackers, at the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre near Nigeria's capital Abuja, detonated several explosives Tuesday to break into the prison and free nearly 900 of the prison's 994 inmates.

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"They came in numbers, they gained entrance into the prison and they released some of the inmates," Nigeria's defense minister, Bashir Magashi, said at a press briefing Wednesday.

One security guard was killed and three others were injured in the attack, according to Shuaib Belgore, permanent secretary at the Interior Ministry.

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"They came specifically for their co-conspirators, but in order to get them ... some of them are in the general prison population so they broke out and other people in that population escaped as well but many have them have returned," Belgore said.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari visited the prison Wednesday and tweeted he was "saddened by the attack," while also questioning security.

"I am disappointed with the intelligence system. How can terrorists organize, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it?" Buhari tweeted. "I am expecting a comprehensive report on this shocking incident."

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A manhunt was underway Wednesday for more than half of the 879 escaped inmates, as the rest were recaptured.

"The have reported themselves to the police, some we have successfully retrieved from the bushes where they were hiding," Belgore said.

"The situation is under control," said Magashi, who speculated the gunmen belonged to Boko Haram. The attack was later claimed by Islamic State.

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Attacks on prisons to free inmates in Nigeria have become common in recent years. Last year, nearly 2,000 prisoners broke out of jail in southeast Nigeria after gunmen blew open a prison wall with explosives. More than 7,000 inmates escaped Nigerian prisons between 2010 and 2021, according to an Al Jazeera analysis of official escapee numbers.

At the Kuje Medium Prison near Abuja, "the armed squad of the Nigerian Correctional Service and other security agencies attached to the Custodial centre have responded," a prison service spokesman said in a statement Wednesday.

"Calm has been restored to the facility and the situation is under control."

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