Maj-Gen. Bashir Magashi)
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Kuje Facility: Invaders freed 64 Boko Haram members –Defence Minister

There are strong indications that all Boko Haram terrorists held in the custody of Kuje Medium Custodial Centre, Abuja, have escaped from the detention facility. Their escape followed the attack on the custodial centre on Tuesday night by terrorists, using explosives and breaking into the cells to set free their members amidst the gun-battle with security agencies Investigationby NewTelegraphrevealedthattheterrorist elements, who invaded the holdingfacilityafewminutes after 10pm, operated for over an hour, after overpowering security operatives on duty.

At least, an officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) was killed alongside four inmates while16otherprisonerswere wounded in the attack. Reliable sources, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said the attackers’ interest was the freeing of their members held in custody, hence cells holding other inmates were not targeted. Minister of Defence, Maj- Gen Bashir Magashi (rtd), whovisited theprisononyesterday for an assessment of the situation, confirmed that the Boko Haram elements, numbering about 64, held in custody escaped during the daring attack.

Magashi, who was in the company of other senior government officials, however, said that troops from the Guards Brigade have since established themselves withinthegeneralareatoforestall any further attacks. “From the records, they (attackers) belong to a particular group, the Boko Haram insurgent, and all of them inside the facility have escaped. “Presently, we could not locate any of them.

I think there are about 64 Boko Haram (members) in prison, they have all escaped. “But the situation is under controlandthat’swhyyousee people going about their normal business activities. We called for reinforcement and the Brigades of Guards are here, and have taken control. “We have recovered some of those who escaped. I saw about 200 of them. And some didnotleavethefacility.

Many are still being re-arrested, and hopefully by the close of the day, everything will be brought under control,” Magashi said. On his part, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Interior, Dr Shuaib Belgore, lamented the recurrent breaches on the security of prison facilities in the country.

According to him, while some of the invasions were successfully repelled by security operatives, others were not. Belgore added that in the instant case, the forces on ground fought gallantly, but were overpowered due to the sheer number of the enemies of state. The permanent secretary, however, noted that no fewer than 300 escapees have since beenrecovered, withtheprospectof (re) arrestinganequal number still on the run. His words: “There have been several attacks on our facilities; most of them are beingrepelled, buteverynow and then, there is one that they have succeeded.

In this one, they came very determined, with high explosives. “Their initial entry attempt was unsuccessful, and then they attacked another section of the wall with higher grade of explosives, which brought the wall down. “The forces on the ground did everything they could to repelthem(theattackers), but the number they came with was high, which they were not able to defend against.

“They kept on fighting gallantly, unfortunately, the breach happened. Reinforcement came when they were halfway through it. They were eventually repelled.” On casualty, he said: “At the time they came in, they killed one NSCDC operative, while trying to save the situation. The inmates here are 994. “We understand they are Boko Haram terrorists, and specifically came for their conspirators.

“Many of them have returned, some were retrieved from the bushes they were hiding, right now we have retrieved about 300 out of about 600 that got out of the jail.” In a related development, the NCoS has said that in the aftermath of the bloody invasion, a total of 879 inmates escaped.

The Service, however, claimed that at the last count, at least 443 of the fleeing inmates have been recovered, with 443 others still at large. According to a statement by the NCoS spokesperson, CSC Umar Abubakar: “In furtherance to my earlier press release on the unfortunate attack by gunmen suspected to be terrorists, I wish to state that the attackers broke into the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje, using explosive devices through the main entrance and the fence of the facility respectively, killing a personnel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps attached to the Custodial Centreand livingthreepersonnel of the Nigerian Correctional Service seriously injured.

“A total of 879 inmates escaped from the facility during the unfortunate attack. As at the time of this report, 443 have been recaptured, 551 inmates are currently in custody, 443 inmates are still at large, four inmates dead and 16 inmates sustained various degrees of injuries and are being treated at the moment. However, efforts are ongoing to recapture all fleeing inmates. “The Service will deploy its Corrections Information Management System (CIMS) in synergy with National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to track all fleeing inmates and return them to custody.

“This is also to confirm to the general public that DCP Abba Kyari and other VIPs held in the facility did not escape. They are presently in custody, hale and hearty.” He added: After the attack attheMedium CustodialCentre in Agbolongo, Oyo State, the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, met with the heads of the security agencies under his supervision where the idea of Joint SecurityTaskForcecomprisingtheNigerianCorrectional Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corpswasformedtoforestall furtherbreachesoncustodial facilities.” Umar noted: “As at the time of the attack on the Kuje facility, we have 38 military personnel on ground in addition to personnel of the Nigeria Police Force, Civil Defence, DSSandourArmed Squad.

This is the minister’s efforts to rejig the security architecture of our facilities. “The public is also informed that some of the attackers were killed while some escaped with gunshot wounds. We, therefore, appeal to hospitals and other medical institutions and practitioners to report anyone that comes to them for treatment for gunshot injuries to the nearest law enforcement agency.” Earlier, a senior establishment source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the civil defence personnel that was neutralised was on guard duty at the gate when the non-state actors arrived. He added that a personnel of the NCoS who was on guard duty, was badly wounded. He, nonetheless, assured that security within and around the critical facility, has been beefed-up, to forestall any recurrence. “As we speak, they (securityoperatives) arestillbringing in morepeople (escapees).

So far, we are recovering a lot of them that ran away. The yard is cool, and the Minister of Defencewasheretoseethe extent of damage caused. We lost a civil defence officer, and one of our officers was seriously injured. “You know, the civil defence officer was the first to be met at the gate. So, they brought him down. “Some (inmates) didn’t go outatall.

They (attackers) had particularcellsof interest. So, they didn’t attack the whole cells; they didn’t open up all the cells.” Asked about the fate of former governors of Plateau and Taraba states, Messrs Joshua Dariye, and Jolly Nyame respectively, the source said there was no cause for worry, adding that they are safe and secure in custody; also the suspended commander of the IGP IntelligenceResponseTeam( IRT), DCP Abba Kyari. “No, they didn’t go anywhere; they are all there. None of those escaped,” he responded.

On reports that the trio may have been evacuated, the source retorted: “If they were evacuated before the attackers came, it means we knew that they were coming for an attack.” New Telegraph recalls that in the last two years, custodial centres in the FCT, Edo, Imo, Kogi, among others, have come under heavy attacks, with attendant escape of hundreds of inmates, many of whom were condemned. Security experts had identified this menace as being partly responsible for the growing insecurity in the country.

 

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