More than 1,800 inmates escaped from a Nigeria prison in the southeastern city of Owerri after an attack by gunmen carrying rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, explosives and rifles, the prisons authority said.
Nigerian police said it believed a banned separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), was behind the attack, but a spokesman for the group denied involvement.
The secessionist movement in the southeast is one of several serious security challenges facing President Muhammadu Buhari, including a decade-long Islamist insurgency in the northeast, a spate of school kidnappings in the northwest and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The Owerri Custodial Centre in Imo state has been attacked by unknown gunmen and forcefully released a total of 1,844 inmates in custody,” a Nigerian Correctional Service spokesman said in a statement late on Monday. The attackers stormed the facility at around 2:15 a.m. (0115 GMT) on Monday, he said.
The attackers used explosives to blast the administrative block of the prison and entered the prison yard, police said in a separate statement.