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Sierra Leone declares nationwide curfew after military breach

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Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio said the security forces were in control of the situation

Sierra Leone has declared a nationwide curfew after gunmen attacked a military barracks and attempted to break into an armoury in the capital, Freetown, the government said on Sunday, Reuters reported.

The Sierra Leone government statement said the security forces were in control of the situation.

“In the early hours of Sunday, some individuals attempted to break into the military armoury at the Wilberforce barracks. They have been rebuffed,” Sierra Leone information minister Chernor Bah said in the statement.

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

A Sierra Leone senior official who requested anonymity told Reuters that the central prison in Freetown was open and some inmates had escaped. The prison, designed to hold 324 inmates, held over 2,000 in 2019, according to a US State Department report.

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It was not clear how many had broken out of the facility, but videos shared on social media showed several people fleeing from the area of the prison, while gunshots could be heard in the background.

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 deaths 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 Sierra Leone president’s X social media account on Sunday, he said there had been a breach of security as some gunmen attacked the military armoury.

“As the combined team of our security forces continues 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.

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There have been eight military coups in West and Central Africa since 2020, delivering repeated blows to democracy in the region.

The Economic Community of West African States condemned what it called an attempt by certain individuals to “acquire arms and disturb constitutional order” in Sierra Leone. The US Embassy in Freetown said in a statement that such actions were not justified.

Sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the empty streets of Freetown near the barracks on Sunday, said a Reuters reporter who encountered a group of the renegade soldiers.

“We’ll clean up this society. We know what we are up to. We are not after any ordinary civilians who should go about their normal business,” said one of the masked men in military fatigues before driving away.

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