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Prison Break, Gunshots Reported in Sierra Leone Amid Coup Fears

The government of Sierra Leone later declared a nationwide curfew.

Sierra Leone has imposed a nationwide curfew following an incident where armed individuals forcibly entered a prison, releasing inmates.

The break-in occurred at the Central Padema Road prison in the capital city of Freetown on Sunday morning, as reported by an official at the facility to BBC News.

Prior to the prison incident, the same gunmen had targeted a military barracks in the city, with residents reporting gunfire near the barracks situated close to the presidential lodge.

The incident, which is said to have occurred in the early hours of Sunday, November 26, 2023, involved unidentified individuals who were repelled by security forces.

“Heavy gunfire in the #Sierra Leone capital, Freetown. The sounds appear to be coming from the main military barracks at Wilberforce, close to the president’s lodge. 

Details are sketchy but a senior military source says there has been a breakage into the armory at Wilberforce,” a tweet by journalist Umaru Fofana read.

The government of Sierra Leone later declared a nationwide curfew after “some unidentified individuals” attempted to break into the military armoury at Wilberforce barracks.

The country’s minister of information and civic education Chernor Bah said in the early hours of Sunday, armed individuals attacked the barracks which houses several foreign embassies, including those of China, Germany, Austria, Gambia, Lebanon and Syria.

Bah said the nation’s security forces were able to curtail the situation before it spiralled into a monumental crisis.

“In the early hours of Sunday, November 26th 2023, some unidentified individuals attempted to break into the military armoury at Wilberforce barracks,” the statement reads.

“A nationwide curfew has been declared with immediate effect … We strongly advise citizens to stay indoors,” the statement added.

The political situation in the West African nation has remained tense since the re-election of President Julius Maada Bio in a disputed election in June, the result of which was rejected by the main opposition candidate.

Anti-government protests that resulted in the death of six police officers and at least 21 civilians last August were an attempt to overthrow the government, President Maada Bio said at the time.

In a message on the president’s X social media account on Sunday, he said there had been a breach of security as some unidentified individuals attacked the military armoury.

“As the combined team of our security forces continue to route out the remnants of the fleeing renegades, a nationwide curfew has been declared and citizens are encouraged to stay indoors,” the post said.

There have been eight military coups in West and Central Africa since 2020, delivering repeated blows to democracy in a region that appeared to have been making progress in shedding its “coup belt” moniker.